Global investment in renewable energy hit a record US$285.9bn (£202.3bn) in 2015, beating the previous high of $278.5bn set in 2011, according to the recently released UN Report: Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015.
"Renewables are becoming ever more central to our low-carbon lifestyles, and the record-setting investments in 2015 are further proof of this trend," states United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner in a press release launching the new Global Trends Report.
The advantages of renewable energy are well rehearsed - amongst them lower emissions but also quicker and cheaper construction which make them a natural choice for energy intensive emerging nations such as India and parts of Africa.
At the recent UN climate summit in Paris, nations agreed to the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the end of the 21st Century. However, renewables are only part of the solution in trying to decarbonise the global economy. Energy efficiency, storage and vehicle emissions, agri-tech all have a part to play meaning there are considerable opportunities for those willing to address the challenge. It may even mean having to have the confidence and forethought to introduce and embrace new business models such as the one proposed below:
Energy companies will rely on their customers to assist them with these challenges. They will incentivise their customers to become energy suppliers themselves, using solar panels or wind turbines attached to homes and offices to generate power while using advanced lithium-ion batteries to store it. In times of low supply, providers will then buy energy from their customers and use it to top up power on the grid. Consumers will have become prosumers; producing and storing electricity themselves using equipment purchased and maintained by energy companies. Paying for power from the grid when they need extra and also selling their excess back to the grid or to other consumers across peer-to-peer energy networks. Decentralising the burden of energy production and storage, and blurring the lines between customer and provider, will be crucial to the commercial success of renewables.