Poor nations are adding capacity from renewable energy projects at nearly twice the rate of developed countries, a new interactive report found. The surge reflects the economic advantage that cleaner technologies have in emerging markets, which are scaling up energy installations to match the demands of expanding populations and economies, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.
The survey of 55 countries, including China, Brazil and South Africa, found that combined renewables projects grew by 143 percent from 2008 to 2013, for a total of 142,000 megawatts. Wealthier nations, by comparison, saw renewables jump by 84 percent to 213,000 megawatts, according to the report by Climatescope, an initiative of London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the U.K. Government Department for International Development. Renewable projects include solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal facilities and biomass plants but, in this case, exclude hydroelectric facilities.
“Clean energy is the low-cost option in a lot of these [developing] countries,” Ethan Zindler, a BNEF analyst based in Washington, told Bloomberg. “The technologies are cost-competitive right now. Not in the future, but right now.”
On an island nation like Jamaica, for instance, solar panels could produce power for about half the cost of wholesale power, which comes from conventional fossil fuel sources, Zindler said. In Nicaragua, wind power may be half as expensive as electricity generated by burning fuel oil.
The nearly six-dozen countries included in the study invested roughly $122 billion on renewables projects last year, up from nearly $60 billion in 2007. Worldwide, total renewables investments reached $214 billion in 2013, according to BNEF data.
While still a sizable chunk, those dollars essentially amount to pocket change compared to the scale of investment needed to help satisfy the globe's future energy needs. The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based watchdog group, estimates the world will require $48 trillion of energy investment by 2035, about $6 trillion of which will come from renewable energy projects.