Word on the web: Developing world takes lead in renewables investment

Despite low fossil fuel prices, developing nations are investing record amounts in renewable energy


Many developing nations have argued that cutting back on polluting fuels would severely harm their economies. Instead, they have said that more developed economies should take much of the climate change initiative. 

Taking the lead

However, according to a recent study, the developing world is for the first time investing more in renewable energy than rich countries. The study, by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (Ren21), shows that £196.5bn was spent on renewable power and fuels last year, with more than £107bn of this figure being invested in developing countries that include China, India and Brazil, reports Ian Johnston, The Independent’s Environment Correspondent.

According to Johnston, China led the way in renewable investment, despite its apparent appetite for fossil fuels. “China, often portrayed as a polluted, coal-powered villain in debates on climate change, topped a league table for investment in renewable power and fuels apart from large-scale hydro, followed by the US, Japan, the UK and India,” he said.

Johnston quotes Andrew Pendleton, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, who says that the fact that developing nations have overtaken the likes of the UK in terms of expenditure on renewables “should be a source of deep shame … when as a windy island, [Britain has] a clear competitive advantage”.

Pendleton adds: “It’s even more shameful that we’re being outspent by poorer countries – Bangladesh is installing home solar while our Government slashes support to homeowners.”

The Indpendent article

The year of cheap renewables

All this investment around the world has meant renewable energy now makes up a significant part of the global energy mix, writes Jeremy Luedi in a piece for Global Risk Insights.

“We have a tendency (especially with all the coverage on oil) to still think about renewables as a fringe market, yet green energy has entered the mainstream in an understated, yet surprising way,” he says.

He points out that last year investment in renewables was “almost twice as high as investment in oil and gas, reaching $286bn and resulting in 147GW in new capacity”.

He adds:“News cycles invariably focus on sudden shifts, and the coverage on global oil prices certainly reflects this bias. While the story itself is not without merit, especially given the historic highs from which prices fell, the trends surrounding renewables have far greater lasting consequences for the global economy.”

Global Risk Insights article Oil not yet over

Despite this surge in support for renewable energy, it isn’t quite ready to take over from oil as the dominant source of fuel, writes Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg. He says: “The global share of fossil fuels is not shrinking fast. Renewables such as wind, solar and geothermal still account for a tiny share of energy production, and there are factors that may inhibit growth in the next few years.

But it would be inaccurate to conclude that the energy revolution is displacing fossil fuels, he says, because, “although investment in renewables and in the oil industry are of comparable magnitude – $522bn was invested in oil last year – sustainable energy is growing from a very low base”.

He concludes: “Those who have predicted the end of the petro states and permanently low oil prices are in for a long wait. Fortunes will still be made in fossil fuels, and oil dictatorships will probably keep squabbling and menacing their neighbours at least for most of our remaining lifetimes.”

Bloomberg article


Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email jules.grey@wardour.co.uk
Published: 24 Jun 2016
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