The year 2015 was an extraordinary one for renewable energy. High-profile agreements were made by G7 and G20 governments to accelerate access to renewable energy and to advance energy efficiency. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal on Sustainable Energy for All (SDG 7). Despite a dramatic decline in global fossil fuel prices, the world saw the largest global capacity additions from renewables to date. However, continuing fossil fuel subsidies and low fossil fuel prices did slow growth in the heating and cooling sector, in particular.
Precedent-setting commitments to renewable energy were made by regional, state and local governments as well as by the private sector. Global investment in renewables reached a new high, with investment in developing countries surpassing that of industrialised countries. The year culminated with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, where 195 countries agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Renewables are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels in many markets and are established around the world as mainstream sources of energy. Renewable power generating capacity saw its largest increase ever. Modern renewable heat capacity also continued to rise, and renewables use expanded in the transport sector. Distributed renewable energy is advancing rapidly to close the gap between the energy haves and have-nots.
However, in order to increase energy access while at the same time meeting the target of limiting global temperature increase to
2 degrees Celsius, remaining fossil fuel reserves will have to be kept in the ground, and both renewable energy and energy efficiency will have to be scaled up dramatically.
Similar to the renewable energy field itself, the Renewables Global Status Report is the sum of many parts. At its heart is a multi-stakeholder network that collectively shares its insight and knowledge. These experts engage in the GSR process, giving their time, contributing data and providing comment. Today the network stands at 700 renewable energy, energy access and energy efficiency experts.
On behalf of the REN21 Secretariat, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the successful production of this year’s report. These include primary lead author Janet L. Sawin, lead authoring team members Kristen M. Seyboth and Freyr Sverrisson, the section authors, GSR project manager, Rana Adib and the entire team at the REN21 Secretariat, under the leadership of REN21’s Executive Secretary Christine Lins.
This year’s report clearly demonstrates the enormous potential of renewables. However, to accelerate the transition to a healthier, more secure and climate-safe future, we need to build a smarter, more flexible system that maximises the use of variable sources of renewable energy and that accommodates both centralised and decentralised as well as community-based generation.
Chair of REN21