UN: Solar Leads $2.5 Trillion Global Investment in Green Energy

The city of Houston buys all the power produced by this solar farm in Alpine, Texas. (Photo via city of Houston)

(CN) – As global superpowers grapple with ditching fossil fuels many nations have flipped the switch on solar power and other renewable forms of energy in the last decade, with investments into those technologies expected to top $2.6 trillion by 2020.

In the last decade, solar power accounted for half of the money invested into renewable energy, according to a United Nations-backed report on global trends released Thursday.

Solar power has come a long way since U.S. President Jimmy Carter installed the first panels on the White House in 1979, only to have them removed a few years later by his successor Ronald Reagan. This episode foretold the uphill battle to replace fossil fuels but not that some 40 years later, a news network would devote seven hours to a series of town halls with presidential candidates discussing their plans to tackle climate change.

The future for renewable energy has grown brighter over the last decade as investments quadrupled. Global energy generated grew from 414 gigawatts to about 1,650 gigawatts, according to the report set to be released ahead of the U.N. Global Climate Action Summit.

Solar power grew from 25 gigawatts to an expected 663 gigawatts over the last decade, generating enough energy to power 100 million average homes in the United States for a year.

Global share of electricity produced from renewable energy rose from around 11% in 2017 to nearly 13% in 2018, cutting out almost 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2018.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said the results show incredible growth.

“But we cannot afford to be complacent,” Andersen said in a statement. “Global power sector emissions have risen about 10% over this period. It is clear that we need to rapidly step up the pace of the global switch to renewables if we are to meet international climate and development goals.”

Svenja Schulze, Germany’s minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, said Germany will produce two-thirds of its power based on renewables by the next decade and echoes Andersen’s concern that important goals to keep global warming to below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit will not be met at the current rate.

2018 marked the fifth year that global investments topped $250 billion, about three times the investment in coal and gas-fired generation capacity combined, according to the report.

China embraced renewable energy with $758 billion invested over the last decade, followed by the United States with $356 billion and Japan with $202 billion. Europe invested $698 billion over the same time period, according to the report.

China’s investment in 2018 was $88.5 billion and overall 29 countries invested more than $1 billion into renewable energies continuing an upward trend for the global market.

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