Developing countries outspent developed ones on renewable energy last year

solar and wind
CC BY-ND 2.0 Gellscom

Last year was a record-breaking year for renewable energy. A new by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) called the Renewables 2016 Global Status Report found that not only was last year the fastest increase in green energy sources in history, but for the first time developing countries outspent developed countries on renewable energy development.

In 2015, renewable energy investments hit $286 billion, a five percent increase from 2014. Global investments in renewable energy were double that spent on new coal and natural gas-fired power generation. Thanks to greater spending, a total of 147 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity was added in 2015.

The big spending was thanks to the falling prices of renewable energy sources, making them cost-competitive with coal and natural gas in many markets, and government policies that support clean energy growth.

China was the biggest spender, accounting for a third of all renewable energy spending, but India, South Africa, Mexico and Chile all had major increases in green energy investments.

Both centralized and distributed energy projects were added and solar power was the far and away winner. Solar power represented more than half of the total investments, while wind was a close second and other renewable sources trailing far behind. Spending on hydropower and biofuels fell compared to 2014.

Spending on renewables overall dipped in developed countries thanks largely to a slowdown in spending in Europe. The study's authors wrote that better policies need to be put in place in those nations to remove barriers to renewable energy spending in major sectors like heating and cooling and transportation.

You can read a lot more information about the current state of renewable energy in the world at the REN21 site where you can also use an interactive map to see country-level data on capacity and spending.

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