Hope floats. 2018 marks remarkable win for Renewables over Fossil Fuels in Emerging Markets

A recent study reveals that renewable capacity additions over the last year were more than fossil fuel generation in developing countries for the first time. Leaving even the wealthier nations behind in the green energy push.

Developing countries added more alternative power capacity than fossil fuel generation for the first time in their history, charging ahead of wealthier nations in the global green energy push, according to Bloomberg NEF’s annual Climatescope survey released yesterday. Wind and solar generation accounted for just over half of the 186 gigawatts of new power capacity in developing nations last year and in the process also added more renewable energy generation capacity than developed economies, with new green additions standing at 114 gigawatts for last year compared with around 63 gigawatts in richer countries.

The report highlights a complete change in trend over the last decade when the world’s wealthiest nations dominated renewable investment and deployment activities. Citing an abundance of natural resources and lower equipment costs as the main factors which made new renewable projects cheaper than fossil plants in developing markets, and in turn, reversing the order of the global trend – which now sees emerging markets lead the renewable push.

“Just a few years ago, some argued that less developed nations could not, or even should not, expand power generation with zero-carbon sources because these were too expensive,” Dario Traum, BNEF Climatescope project manager said in a statement. “Today, these countries are leading the charge when it comes to deployment, investment, policy innovation, and cost reductions.”

  • New clean energy additions rose 20 percent in developing nations from 2016, while slipping in richer countries by 0.4 percent.
  • New financing for clean-energy technologies in emerging markets remained roughly flat at $143 billion since dropping from a record of $178 billion in 2015, even as prices of the technologies continued to fall.
  • Chile replaced China as the top scorer of the survey because of its strong government policies, a track record of clean energy investment and a commitment to decarbonization despite grid constraints
    • India is a close second, up from fifth the previous year, on its ambitious clean energy policies and competitive renewable auctions
    • China fell to seventh as curtailment issues and subsidy cuts to solar generators lowered its score, though it is the largest market for clean energy

Emerging markets added the least new coal-fired power generating capacity last year in more than a decade. New coal plants additions stood at 48 gigawatts in 2017, down 38 percent over the previous year and nearly half of the peak in 2015, the report revealed. However, actual generation from coal-fired plants gained 4 percent in developing countries to 6.4 terawatt-hours.
And an additional 193 gigawatts of coal-powered plants are under construction in developing economies, with 86 percent of this capacity planned in China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Of course, in case you missed it, we are comparing capacity additions to generation, which is not a fair comparison perhaps. Even as the world looks at broadly 2040 by when renewables generation should match or exceed fossil fuel generation, that really is the big number to chase eventually. Seeing how quickly the market changed for renewables in the past 3 years, one has to be optimistic that it will take another good cycle of growth, backed by a breakthrough in storage, to help meet the 2040 projections before time. Because, quite simply, climate scientists have made it clear that even 2040 is not early enough.


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Ayush Verma

Ayush Verma

Ayush is a correspondent at iamrenew.com and writes on renewable energy and sustainability. As an engineering graduate trying to find his niche in the energy journalism segment, he also works as a staff writer for saurenergy.com.

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