Solar energy is seeing more investment than coal, gas and nuclear power combined, according to The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report. The report, commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that a drive from the Chinese market saw solar investment rise by 18% to over $160.8 billion in 2017.
The record-breaking year for solar power has been attributed to the prominence of the technology across Asia, with China currently producing more than 50% of the planet’s 98GW of solar capacity. The report, published in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that aside from the environmental benefits, falling prices for solar and wind power continue to drive significant investment into the technology’s deployment.
As solar systems are not limited by a government quota in China, the cost of the energy source continues to fall across the country as more projects are deployed on rooftops, industrial parks and other locales.
The report said the cost of generating electricity from large-scale solar photovoltaic technology fell by over 15 percent in 2017 to only $86 per megawatt hour – a megawatt hour is equal to 1,000 kilowatts of electricity used continuously for one hour.
Indeed, a comparison between solar and fossil fuel power generation demonstrates the exponential rise of renewables, with 157GW of ‘green’ energy sources commissioned in 2017 compared to only 70GW in fossil fuels. Excluding large hydropower, solar power accounted for 57% of 2017’s renewables, with the technology attracting a massive $279.8 billion in investment – surpassing investments in fossil fuels including coal, gas and oil by over $176 billion.
Wind energies have also attracted significant investments, with India accounting for almost a tenth of production. The rapid growth in the renewable market comes despite a fall in investments in markets such as the UK post-Brexit, where investment dropped by 65% to $7.6 billion – as well as a stream of anti-environmental sentiments from President Donald Trump. Indeed, US renewable energy investment remained strong despite policy uncertainties under the current administration, which has demonstrated favourability towards fossil fuels – including placing tariffs on imported solar panels and most significantly leaving the Paris Agreement.
Despite record-breaking investments in renewables, fossil fuels continue to be the dominating force in the global energy market. Academics, activists and climate experts have advised world governments that renewable energy sources must be the planet’s main source of energy by 2050 if the objectives outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement are to be achieved.
2017 wasn’t only a record-breaking year for solar power investment, however. The UN report also said that wind power was the second-largest area for investment in the same year, at $107.2 billion, with energy-smart technologies coming third at over $48.8 billion.
Sheikh Nawaf al-Saud al-Nasser al Sabah
Saad Sherida al-Kaabi