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Record Investments in Clean Energy Around the World Send a Hopeful Message

The 2016 Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report issued by the United Nations in March 2016 pointed out a big first: This was the first year in which investments in solar energy, wind energy, and other renewables far outpaced investments in coal and gas-generated electricity. In fact, investments in renewables were more than double those in their fossil fuel counterparts. In addition, investments in renewable energy sources were particularly high in developing countries.

Black Rock Solar photovoltaic array at Food Bank of Northern Nev

The trend toward renewables was particularly strong in China in 2015, with investment in renewables topping $103 billion, which amounts to a 17 percent increase over the previous year and 36 percent of the world's total investments in renewables of $286 billion. Other countries with significantly higher investments in renewables included Chile, India, Mexico, and South Africa. While investments in oil, gas, and coal remain high, 2015's renewable energy investments are an encouraging sign.

Most of the increases came from expanded solar energy and wind energy investments and installations, which combined to produce 118 gigawatts of electricity out of the 134 total gigawatts generated from clean energy investments. The remaining 16 gigawatts came primarily from waste-to-energy generators, geothermal energy, and small hydroelectric projects.

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However, the U.N. report points out that while renewables constituted the majority of new electricity generating technology in 2015, most electricity is still generated by traditional means, including oil, coal, and gas. Green technologies only totaled 10 percent of the electricity generated throughout the world in 2015. This means that while positive change is happening, there's still a long way to go to become independent from fossil fuels.

Even with the significant increase in the use of renewable energy in China, the United States remains the world leader when it comes to producing green energy. Learn why and understand what steps are being taken to increase the use of renewables even further.

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