Global Renewable Power Installs Top Fossil Fuels for First Time Ever in 2015

Mar. 15, 2016

Global renewable power source installs reach 53.6% of total

A recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme concluded that global renewable power source installations in 2015, excluding large hydro installations, made up 53.6% of the gigawatt capacity of all technologies installed – marking the first time renewables have represented the majority of new installed capacity.

In addition, the amount of investment committed to renewables globally in 2015, excluding large hydro projects, increased 5% to a record high of USD $285.9 billion versus the previous record of USD $278.5 billion set in 2011. This record commitment level is especially significant given the exchange rate changes in 2015 that depressed the dollar value of investments in many regions, and the major drop in oil, gas, and coal prices that challenged the competitiveness of renewable sources.

Investments in developing nations surpass those of developed counterparts

The report also found that investment in developing nations, including China, India, and Brazil, totaled USD $156 billion in 2015 while investments in developed countries totaled just USD $130 billion – the first time investments by developing nations have surpassed those of their developed counterparts.

Globally, new investments in wind power amounted to USD $109.6 billion in 2015 marking an increase of 4% over 2014 and an average annual increase of 17% since 2004. New investments in solar power totaled USD $161.0 billion, up 12% from 2014 and, on average, 27% annually since 2004.

Levelised cost of electricity driving demand for renewables over fossil fuels

The study found that the levelised cost of electricity (“LCOE”) generated by solar and wind power has decreased by upwards of 60% from 2009 to present, helping to support growing demand for such sources at the expense of demand for fossil fuels. However, the report notes that in addition to increasing cost-competitiveness, renewable power generation technologies are increasingly being favored over coal or gas plants because they can be installed and operational within a matter of months versus several years or more for coal and gas plants.

In the context of rare earth elements, the findings of the report are especially encouraging for the outlook on demand for NdFeB permanent magnets used increasingly in onshore and offshore wind turbine generators globally. And consequently, with growing demand for renewables comes growing demand for adjunct energy storage systems, such as battery banks, which may serve to boost future demand for NiMH batteries and the rare earth elements they contain.


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