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Record growth for the renewable energy sector

29th July 2018 Print

While our movement towards greener and more sustainable practices has signalled the end for some industries, it has been the driving force for others. One prime example of this is the renewable energy sector; while traditional energy markets are faltering and facing a challenging road ahead, the renewables sector is breaking records. 

What makes the renewables sector stand out from other markets which rely on finite natural resources, is that the sector only uses resources that naturally replenish. Collected under the umbrella term of renewables is solar, wind and wave power, alongside biomass and biofuels. 

The renewable sector is one that continues to grow, but where is the sector today? HTL Group, specialists in controlled bolting for the wind energy sector investigates. 

Renewables performance 

The industry has become stronger than ever in recent years. In 2016, 138 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity was created, showing an 8% increase on 2015, when 128 GW was added.

Renewable energy now occupies a 55% share in the industry by shrinking the performance of other sectors thanks to the 138 GW of power generation capacity. Following in second place, coal created 54 GW of power-generating capacity, while gas created 37 GW and nuclear created 10 GW.

Additionally, the sector is a significant contributor to the global power-generating capacity accounted for 55% of 2016’s electricity generation capacity and 17% of the total global power capacity, increasing from 15% in 2015.

The environmental benefits are apparent too, with figures from UNEP suggesting the growth of the renewables sector prevented an estimated total of 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2016. Based on the 39.9 billion tonnes of CO2 that was released in 2016, the figure would have been 4% higher without the availability of renewable energy sources.

Investment drop

Whilst the sector has experienced progressive growth, the same cannot be said about investment – investment actually fell in 2016. In 2016, $242 billion was invested in the sector, showing a 23% decrease on 2015’s figures. This reduction can largely be attributed to the falling cost of technology in each sector.

But it seems that every country’s interest in investment differs with influencing factors changing depending on the market on a country by country basis. In 2016, Europe was the only region to see an increase in investment in the renewables sector, rising 3% on 2015’s figures to reach $60 billion. This performance is largely driven by the region’s offshore wind projects, which accounted for $26 billion of the total, increasing by over 50% on 2015’s figures.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium all appear to have the strongest investments, whilst UK investment slipped by 1% on the previous year, and Germany’s investment dropped by 14%.

Dropping investment significantly was China, who reduced their investment by almost a third, down to $37 billion in 2016 from 2015’s $78 billion. Investment from developing nations also dropped in 2016 to a total of $117 billion, down from $167 billion in 2015. In 2016, investment had almost levelled out between developed and developing countries ($125 billion vs $117 billion).

Looking to the future 

The recent success and performance in the renewables sector can be attributed to the most recent developments. From the falling cost of technology to societal shifts like the 2040 ban to prevent the sale of new petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars, the future certainly looks positive for the sector — even if investment has declined in the past year. 

As attitudes continue to shift and equipment prices fall, we can expect the growth of renewables to continue – despite fossil fuels still currently dominating the market! In the future, it is inevitable that the sector will overtake more traditional markets on a global scale, revolutionising how we generate and consume energy.