Looking back at 2014 through the prism of renewable energy, it’s hard not to get bombastic. So many records were broken, corners turned, and with costs declining, it’s hard not to wonder if 2015 will see renewable energy become nothing more than a fully competitive energy source, capturing more and more market share. But first, let’s take a brief tour to see what happened in 2014.
We begin in Germany, whose ambitious Energiewende produced results in the form of renewables becoming the lead power producer for the first time, generating 27.3% of electricity in the country. In wind power alone, a record 4,750 megawatts (MW) were added.
Meanwhile in the U.S., wind power added 4,850 MW, just more than Germany, with a further 12,700 MW project under construction. Whether or not this trend will hold seems entirely dependent on the U.S. Congress passing another Production Tax Credit (PTC). For comparison, China installed 20,700 MW in 2014.
Turning to solar, the UK almost doubled solar capacity in 2014, reaching almost 5,000 MW. And in a region not usually covered in the news for renewable power production (besides hydro), Latin America’s solar market expanded 370% in 2014, installing 625 MW, though starting from a small base. Total PV installations grew from 184 MW installed in 2013 to 809 MW in 2014.
For the sake of comparison, if we assume an average nuclear plant capacity at 5,000 MW, then 2014 installed wind in Germany, U.S., and China, along with solar in UK and Latin America, together equal almost seven large nuclear plants. Not bad for a year’s work.
So what to look out for in 2015? From Burlington (VT) going 100% renewable in 2014, to Caribbean islands signing up to decrease their reliance on oil imports, we’ll be seeing a lot more initiatives not just on a national level, but many more local and regional actors taking the lead. And as a larger region, look out for the Middle East to wake up to their huge solar potential.