2015 was a record year for renewable energy installations. Renewable power generating capacity saw its largest increase ever, with an estimated 147GW added. Distributed renewable energy is advancing rapidly to close the gap between the energy haves- and have-nots. Renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels in many markets. In addition, government leadership continues to play a key role in driving the growth of renewables, particularly wind and solar, in the power sector.
As of early 2016, 173 countries had renewable energy targets in place and 146 countries had support policies. Additional growth factors include better access to financing, concerns about energy security and the environment and the growing demand for modern energy services in developing and emerging economies. 2015 was a record year not only for new installations, but also for investment – reaching US$ 286 billion worldwide in renewable power and fuels. With increased investment came an increase in technological advances, cost reductions and jobs. There are now 8.1 million people working in the renewable energy sector. REN21’s Renewables 2016 Global Status Report presents developments and trends through the end of 2015, as well as observed trends from early 2016 where available. While trends are generally positive, the report highlights several challenges that remain to be addressed if governments are to fulfil their commitments to achieve a global transition away from fossil fuels. These include: achieving effective integration of high shares of renewables into the grid; addressing policy and political instability, regulatory barriers, and fiscal constraints. Further, there is far less policy focus on transport and, particularly, heating and cooling, so these sectors are progressing much more slowly.