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China leads global solar energy investment

Published:Thursday | April 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM

More money was invested in new solar energy plants last year than in any other power source, with China responsible for much of the boom, according to a report published by the UN Environment Program, UNEP.

Globally, a record 98 gigawatts of new solar capacity were installed in 2017, with investments topping US$160 billion an increase of 18 per cent compared to the previous year. China alone spent US$86.5 billion on solar installations, adding 53 gigawatts of capacity.

Total new investments in renewable energy reached almost US$280 billion last year, an increase of two per cent from 2016, but still far below the 2015 record of over US $323 billion.

Coal and gas accounted for investments totalling US$103 billion, while spending on large hydropower dams and nuclear plants stood at US$45 billion and US$42 billion, respectively.

The report, based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, found renewable energy investments in the United States grew by six per cent, while in Germany they fell by 35 per cent, and in Japan they dropped by 28 per cent in 2017. This was partly due to falling prices, but regulatory changes and the timing of large wind power deals also played a role.

Renewable energy accounted for 12.1 per cent of the electricity generated worldwide last year, up from 11 per cent in 2016, according to the report. Although this increased share amounts to a savings of 1.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide a key greenhouse gas it's not enough to offset rising global energy consumption, according to UNEP.

Francoise d'Estais, an energy finance expert with the UN agency and co-author of the report, said countries will have to step up renewable power generation and cut back on electricity use if they want to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Currently, about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions come from electricity and heat generation.

AP