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As costs fall, global renewable energy installations hit new milestone

Data: BP Statistical Review of World Energy; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Global solar and wind installations have reached one trillion watts (1 terawatt) in capacity, recently released BloombergNEF (New Energy Finance) analysis shows.

The big picture: This milestone accounted for installations that have occurred over the past 40 years, with 90% having been installed within the past 10 years. Product and installation costs for wind and solar energy have fallen significantly since the 1970s, in part because of innovations in technology, integration and access.

Wind power installations accounted for 54% of the total. However, solar is expected to overcome wind by 2020, owing in part to reduced costs of solar panels and energy storage systems. China has 1.1 trillion watts of solar installations planned by 2050.

The report credits Germany’s efforts to redesign the energy market through its Renewable Energy Sources Act in the early 2000s as a key factor that increased renewable energy adoption. Solar and wind were previously thought to be too risky for investment, but the act promoted the development of renewables while making the financial considerations more transparent to potential investors.

Coupled with energy storage deployments, solar and wind have provided better access to generated capacity, which utilities are increasingly incorporating into their business model to as a way of maintaining grid stability.

What's next: BloombergNEF estimates that the second terawatt target may be achieved by 2023 thanks to falling energy storage and installation costs. Estimated investment costs to hit this next milestone are $1.23 trillion, almost half of the $2.3 trillion needed to hit the first terawatt.

Maggie Teliska is a technical specialist at Caldwell Intellectual Property, an intellectual property law firm. She is also a member of GLG, a platform connecting businesses with industry experts.

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