The global renewable energy industry continued its rapid expansion in 2015, with the latest figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance(BNEF) showing 2015 was a record year for investment.

BNEF says 2015 was also the highest ever for installation of renewable power capacity, with 64 GW of wind and 57 GW of solar PV commissioned during the year, an increase of nearly 30 per cent over 2014. <br/> <br/>The figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance include the following highlights:

  • Worldwide clean energy investment surged to its highest ever figure of US$329.3 billion (AU$470.8 billion), up 4 per cent from 2014’s US$315.9 billion and beating the previous record, set in 2011, by 3 per cent.
  • Investment in 2015 was nearly six times what it was in 2004.
  • Growth was strongest in China, Africa, the US, Latin America and India. China was the largest investor (US$110.5 billion), followed by the United States (US$56 billion).
  • The surge in investment defied a number of restraining factors, including further declines in the cost of PV (which meant that more capacity could be installed for the same price) and the plunge in fossil fuel prices.
  • Rooftop and other small-scale solar projects totalled US$67.4 billion in 2015, up 12 per cent on 2014.<
  • Wind and solar accounted for half of the net capacity added in all generation technologies globally in 2015.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices. They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power, driven in part by the move by many countries to reverse-auction new capacity rather than providing advantageous tariffs, a shift that has put producers under continuing price pressure.

“Wind and solar power are now being adopted in many developing countries as a natural and substantial part of the generation mix: they can be produced more cheaply than often high wholesale power prices; they reduce a country’s exposure to expected future fossil fuel prices; and above all they can be built very quickly to meet unfulfilled demand for electricity.”

Mr Liebreich added that it is very hard to see these trends going backwards, in the light of December’s Paris Climate Agreement.

In response to the figures, Clean Energy Council spokesperson Mark Bretherton said confidence was returning to the Australian industry following several tough years.

“Australia has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, and while the industry recognises that meeting the Renewable Energy Target (RET) will be a challenge, we are up to the task.

“Negotiating contracts to buy the renewable energy generated by major projects simply takes time, and we are expecting more projects to proceed in the first two quarters of 2016.”

BNEF said asset finance of utility-scale projects such as wind farms, solar parks, biomass and waste-to-energy plants and small hydro-electric schemes made up the biggest portion of the investment in clean energy in 2015, at US$199 billion. The biggest projects around the world included a string of large offshore wind arrays in the North Sea and off the coast of China.

Rooftop and other small-scale solar projects made up the next largest chunk of investment, totalling US$67.4 billion in 2015, up 12 per cent on 2014. Japan was by far the biggest market for small-scale solar, followed by the US and China.

There was also US$20 billion of asset finance in technologies such as smart grid and utility-scale battery storage, an 11 per cent rise on 2014.

BNEF said that, while final figures for installed capacity were still being compiled, preliminary indications are that both wind and solar PV saw around 30 per cent more capacity installed worldwide in 2015 than in 2014. The wind total for last year is likely to end up at around 64 GW, with that for solar just behind at about 57 GW.

This combined total of 121 GW is around half of the net capacity added in all generation technologies (fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable) globally in 2015.