Sustainable Energy

Why Renewable Energy Is Defying Gravity

Growth in renewable energy shows no signs of slowing, even though fossil fuel prices have plummeted. Here’s why.

According to data released yesterday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a record $329 billion was invested in clean energy worldwide in 2015. Last year was also the strongest ever for installations of renewable energy capacity, with 64 gigawatts of wind and 57 gigawatts of solar power commissioned. Given the relentless plunge in oil prices, now flirting with $30 a barrel, that seems counterintuitive: conventional wisdom says that cheap fossil fuels inhibit the growth of renewables.

Contractors work on solar panels at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

In fact, though, the two are not directly related: oil is mostly used in the transportation sector, while solar and other clean energy sources are harnessed to make electricity. While oil’s collapse has undoubtedly slowed the growth of the electric vehicle market, it doesn’t necessarily weigh on the spread of solar arrays and wind farms. What’s more, even EV sales are rising: according to the most recent forecast from Navigant Research, global sales of light-duty EVs will grow from 2.6 million in 2015 to more than 6 million in 2024.

The other drivers of the clean energy boom include favorable government policies, falling prices for electricity from renewables, and the growing determination of businesses, particularly large multinational corporations, to limit their exposure to climate change risks and to adapt to a future in which carbon emissions are taxed or priced in some other fashion. According to the Global Risks Report 2016, produced by the World Economic Forum, the No. 1 risk to global peace and prosperity is climate change. The dawning awareness of that risk among policymakers, CEOs, and consumers is ultimately the fundamental force behind the startling growth of the clean energy sector.

(source: Bloomberg)

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.