Cost differences between renewables and fossil fuels have traditionally guided new renewable energy additions, especially in developing countries. But those days are ending, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) Climatescope 2014 report, which finds renewable electricity is now just as affordable as fossil fuel in 55 emerging nations across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. For Caribbean islands, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Barbados take the top three spots for the region, similar to previous years owning to a strong enabling environment for investment and some impressive wind and solar projects on all three.
BNEF suggests the scale may have already tipped toward renewables in these markets. Clean energy capacity in the surveyed nations grew 143% between 2008-2013, nearly twice as fast as in the richer Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations, and has more than doubled over the period to 142 total gigawatts (GW).
Climatescope is an annual analysis of market conditions for clean energy in developing nations, including enabling framework (market structures, power prices, demand), clean energy investment and climate financing, low-carbon business value chains, and emissions management. Previous editions covered 26 Latin America and Caribbean countries, but this year’s version expanded to include countries in Africa and Asia.
For LAC countries, the report highlights the region’s unique natural resources yielding high capacity factors and cost-competitive alternatives for electricity generation.
“This potential has not gone unnoticed and the region is today regarded as one of the great frontiers for clean energy investment. From 2006 to 2013, the region attracted a cumulative $132bn for biofuels, biomass, geothermal, solar, small hydro (up to 50MW) and wind. Of this, $93.4bn went to build new projects.” – the report summarises.
Conditions that traditionally favored fossil fuels now boost renewables, starting with rising global power demand. From 2008 to 2013, Climatescope nations added 603GW new capacity and expanded total grid capacity nearly a third to 2,013GW, compared to 258GW for a 9.6% increase and 2,887GW total grid capacity in OECD nations.
“Not only is demand for energy growing faster in the developing world than in the more developed countries, but on a percentage basis demand for clean energy is growing faster in the developing world,” said Ethan Zindler, BNEF analyst. Including large hydroelectric, renewables now constitute more than 660GW of capacity in the Climatescope nations, compared to 806GW in OECD nations.
Government Policy Takes Shape, But Still Room To Grow
Favorable market conditions may spark clean energy capacity additions, but supportive policies enable growth in the first place. BNEF found at least 359 policies in place dating back to 2006, with 306 added since 2008 and 210 since 2011, reflecting policymaker interest in diversifying energy supplies beyond fossil fuels.
“Frankly what they’re finding in many cases that they can do clean energy, they do make these investments, and they are putting policies in place to foster them,” said Zindler. “That’s a real change over the past several years.”
Credit: Silvio Marcacci, The Energy Collective