Why Power Markets Tilt Toward Renewables Even With Cheap Oil

  • Six charts show leverage for wind and solar in power market
  • UN Environment Program and BNEF show tilt toward clean energy

If you’re a power plant developer, chances are you’ll be selling renewables in a developing nation in the decades ahead -- even with fossil fuel prices bumping along historic lows.

That’s been the conclusion for some time of the International Energy Agency and independent researchers such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A report out Thursday from the United Nations Environment Program using BNEF data gives more statistical backing for the trends.

For the first time in 2015, more investment went into renewables than fossil fuels, and most of the money went to emerging markets. BNEF is hosting a conference in New York starting April 4 to bring together executives and bankers attempting to generate value from the boom.

Here are six charts from the UNEP report showing why cheap oil and natural gas aren’t about to slow the rise of wind and solar.

Renewables investment hit a record last year.

That meant more than half of new power came from renewables.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Clean energy projects are getting bigger, attracting more money.

The chart below shows that clean energy has moved beyond research and demonstration projects funded by governments and venture capital specialists. The big banks that provide project finance loans are front most of the capital for wind and solar farms. That’s opened the way for more large-scale developments in far-flung places as diverse as Egypt, Morocco and Norway.

Developing countries are pouring more money into renewables.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

The chart above shows the billions of dollars flowing to renewables in both developing and developed economies. It indicates the industry has shifted from a plaything of rich industrial nations into a growing power source for emerging economies -- especially places that must import fossil fuels. Government programs to cut pollution in Beijing and New Delhi are one driver. Another is the need for electricity in rural areas far away from a reliable power grid.

Clean Energy doesn’t compete with oil in the power market.

The result is the link between growth and emissions is breaking.

In decades past, fossil fuel use and emissions closely tracked the growth in the world economy. That link is breaking down, due to the spread of renewables and a push toward efficiency in power consumption -- all those LEDs replacing light bulbs are adding up.