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DATA STORY | Developing countries invest more in renewable energy than developed nations

A report by Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) studied global trends of investments in renewable sources of energy

June 06, 2018 / 09:19 AM IST
Representative image

Representative image

The world used 12 percent renewable energy in 2017, one percent more than its average of 11 percent in 2016, according to a report put together by Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This amounts to 1.8 gigatonnes less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere!

The report studied the global trend of investments in renewable sources of energy. Another conclusion it drew was that developing countries invest much more in renewable energy as compared to developed nations, the superpowers.

Total investment in 2017 was USD 280 billion. The developing countries first overtook the developed countries in 2015, but the gap has grown wider in the past two years. In 2017, the gap was of USD 74 billion, as developing countries invested a whopping USD 177 billion, while the developed contributed USD 103 billion.


Rationale for developing countries using renewable resources


The view that renewable resources are expensive and can be afforded by affluent countries only, has existed for a long time. It has, however, been proven wrong by third world economies for the past three years.

A fair share of developing countries are rich in natural resources like solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, thermal energy and biomass. Investments in such resources are helpful in reducing the countries’ dependence on conventional resources of energy like coal and fossil fuels.

Hence, it turns out to be a cheaper investment and is also very often shielded by price fluctuations. Non-renewable energy resources have been privy to rapid change in prices and have cost countries and their citizens a lot.

Countries like India, China and Brazil aim to use only renewable resources in their operations in the coming years. Electric vehicles, use of hydro-electric power and use of solar energy in key functions of major cities are few of the many ways developing countries are choosing to harness natural resources.

To take a few examples, China is already moving with unbelievable pace in the sale of its electric cars. Nearly one out of every 50 vehicles in China in 2017 was electric, and one in every 20 trucks and buses.

India’s push for electric vehicles has been consistent through the past five years. Recently, the government has set a target of increasing the sales of electric vehicles by four percent of the usual new car purchases.

Many Indian cities use solar power to operate traffic lights, street lights and government offices and railway stations. Many states in India have dedicated departments for better use of solar power.

Brazil has been in the game for a long time. It has focused on developing alternative methods to oil for energy, mainly sugarcane ethanol. In 2009, over 80 percent of its electricity was domestically produced.

In recent years, there has been growing concern surrounding global warming and climate change. This is why countries began to tap the unconventional and natural resources.

The first African country to use geothermal power was Kenya, and it still leads the world in a number of solar power systems installed per capita. At least 90 percent of Costa Rica’s energy is from renewable sources.

Why are developed countries lagging behind?

Despite having the means, it is found that the developed countries are held back from investing in natural resources of energy due to political and social restraints. Europe, the UK and the US have seen a significant decrease in their usage of renewable energy.

According to a report by, United Kingdom’s political decisions are holding back growth of the renewable energy industry. The report also says more expensive technologies are being supported and sources such as solar energy are not being given access to the market.

US President Donald Trump made loud observations that climate change is not real and pulled out of the Paris accord, an international agreement to fight global warming. This gave a negative direction to US investment in renewable energy and the citizens’ attitude towards it.

Having access to conventional, more expensive means of energy gives the developed countries an edge over the third world nations. With renewable energy coming into the picture, developing countries are becoming less dependent on the big economies. This may be another reason why the entry of renewable energy sources is being blocked by the superpowers.
Vaibhavi Khanwalkar
first published: Jun 6, 2018 09:18 am

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