PARIS — Renewable energy accounted for nearly 25 percent of global electrical capacity in 2015, according to a new study, Renewables 2016 Global Status Report, by REN21.

The power sector experienced its largest annual increase in capacity ever, with significant growth in all regions. Wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) had record additions for the second consecutive year, accounting for about 77 percent of new installations, and hydropower represented most of the remainder. The world now adds more renewable power capacity annually than it adds (net) capacity from all fossil fuels combined. By the end of 2015, renewable capacity in place was enough to supply an estimated 23.7 percent of global electricity, with hydropower providing about 16.6 percent.

Modern renewable energy supplies approximately 8 percent of final energy for heating and cooling services worldwide in buildings and industry, the vast majority of which is provided by biomass, with smaller contributions from solar thermal and geothermal energy.

Global investment also climbed to a new record level, in spite of the plunge in fossil fuel prices, the strength of the U.S. dollar (which reduced the dollar value of non-dollar investments), the continued weakness of the European economy, and further declines in per unit costs of wind and solar PV. For the sixth consecutive year, renewables outpaced fossil fuels for net investment in power capacity additions.

In parallel with growth in markets and investments, 2015 saw continued advances in renewable energy technologies, ongoing energy efficiency improvements, increased use of smart grid technologies, and significant progress in hardware and software to support the integration of renewable energy, as well as progress in energy storage development and commercialization.

Employment in the renewable energy sector (not including large-scale hydropower) increased in 2015 to an estimated 8.1 million jobs (direct and indirect). Solar PV and biofuels provided the largest numbers of renewable energy jobs. Large-scale hydropower accounted for an additional 1.3 million direct jobs. Considering all renewable energy technologies, the leading employers in 2015 were China, Brazil, the United States, and India.

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Publication date: 7/4/2016

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