Defying gravity: the cheapest oil in a decade couldn’t keep solar and wind down in 2015

windmills

“The sun and the wind continue to defy gravity.”

That’s how Bloomberg Business sums up the stellar performance of renewables in 2015.

Despite bargain prices not seen in a decade on coal, oil and gas, renewables recorded another record-breaking year, with more money invested ($329 billion) and more capacity added (121 gigawatts) than ever before, according to data released last week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

What’s more, The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is celebrating a banner year as the country finished sixth in the world for bringing on new wind energy capacity in 2015.

Canada added 1,506 MW of new wind capacity over the year, now making us seventh in the world for total wind capacity, at 11,205 MW.

CanWEA says the new wind capacity came from the commissioning of 36 projects, 23 of which involved Aboriginal Peoples, municipal or local ownership. It says wind energy supplied approximately five per cent of the country’s electricity demand in 2015, enough to power more than three million homes.

windmill_and_sign

CCNB staff attended the opening of a demonstration vertical-axis wind turbine in Fredericton in December 2015

“Not only has the wind energy industry continued its five-year trend as the largest source of new electricity generation in Canada,” said CanWEA president Robert Hornung in a release, “the industry in Canada has demonstrated a five-year annual average growth rate of 23 per cent per year (an average of 1,438 MW per year).”

CanWEA credits Ontario with leading the way in growing the Canadian wind market, adding 871 MW of new capacity last year for a new total of 4,361 MW.

Quebec is the second largest market, adding 397 MW last year for a new total of 3,262 MW.

Nova Scotia added 186 MW in 2015, bringing the total installed capacity in Atlantic Canada to 1,104 MW (New Brunswick makes up 294 MW, PEI 204 MW, and Newfoundland and Labrador 55 MW).

The release noted that more projects are only expected to keep cropping up in Canada as the cost of utility-scale wind has plummeting 60 per cent over the past six years, making it now cost-competitive with virtually every other potential source of new electricity generation.

Back to the Bloomberg article, their analysts say the world has now reached a turning point in power production, adding more power generation from renewables every year than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. The trend continued in 2015 despite declining fossil fuel prices.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

And since clean energy is also getting cheaper, Bloomberg says, the world got more bang for each buck in 2015. Investment dollars rose 4 per cent last year, while the new capacity added for wind and solar jumped 30 per cent.

According to the finance report, China had the biggest global push behind renewables in 2015, spending $111 billion on clean energy infrastructure. A big surprise to many was discovering that half of the world’s annual investments in clean energy came from emerging markets.


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