- Global renewable energy had its biggest annual growth ever in 2015, with new wind capacity at 64 GW and new solar photovoltaic capacity at 57 GW. Together they leading the sector’s nearly 30% year-on-year expansion. Total global clean energy investment hit a record $328.9 billion, 4% over 2014’s $315.9 billion.
- Asset finance of utility-scale renewables was $199 billion, 6% over 2014's investment, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The next biggest part of global renewables investment was in distributed generation, especially distributed solar, at $67.4 billion, up 12% from 2014.
- Among the biggest individual investments were three North Sea offshore wind projects at $2.9 billion (580 MW), $2.3 billion (336 MW), and $2.1 billion (402 MW), respectively, and two 300 MW Chinese offshore wind projects at $850 million each. A 350 MW concentrating solar power project in Morocco was $1.8 billion.
The record-breaking level of global investment was more noteworthy because it came despite four factors that might have worked against renewables. First, the continued drop in the installed cost of solar photovoltaic technology meant that investment only grew because investors wanted more new capacity. Second, the strong dollar meant that non-dollar investment was significantly higher to drive the total increase of investment in dollars.
Most significantly, according to BNEF, fossil fuel prices dropped precipitously but did not lure investors. From mid-2014 to the end of 2015, the Brent crude price dropped 67% from $112.36/barrel to $37.28/barrel. A leading European coal price benchmark fell 35% from $73.70/tonne to $47.60/tonne. The U.S. Henry Hub natural gas price index was down 48%, from $4.42/mmBTU to $2.31/mmBTU. Yet renewables attracted the dollars.
Finally, the European economy that long drove renewables growth continued to be weak but China, the U.S., and new markets in Mexico, Chile, South Africa, and Morocco picked up the slack.