Renewable energy generation capacity around the world reached record levels in 2014, enabling the economy to grow without increasing carbon emission for the first time in history.
According to a report published by Renewable Energy Policy Network 21 (REN21), the capacity increase was driven by new bold emission reduction targets being set by countries including China and the USA. 164 countries around the world now have green energy policies in place, compared with 144 in 2014.
"Renewable energy and improved energy efficiency are key to limiting global warming to 2°C and avoiding dangerous climate change," said REN21 chair Arthouros Zervos.
The renewable energy generation capacity including solar, wind and hydro power installations rose by 8.5 per cent over the past year. This capacity increase, REN21 believes, enabled the emissions to stay at the 2013 levels despite the world’s electricity consumption growing by 1.5 per cent and the global gross domestic product increasing by 3 per cent.
Renewable energy made up almost 28 per cent of global power generating capacity in 2014, enough to supply close to 23 per cent of electricity demand, the report said.
The amount of energy available from renewable resources worldwide was greater than that produced by all coal-burning plants in the United States, the world's second-largest coal consumer.
Green energy investments in developing countries rose by 36 per cent in 2014 from the previous year, reaching $131bn and coming the closest ever to investments in developed economies, which stood at $139bn.
China accounted for 63 per cent of the renewable energy investment in developing nations, while Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey each invested more than $1bn.
Solar energy capacity has grown at the fastest rate, largely thanks to rapidly falling costs, followed by wind power, REN21 said.
However, the development of renewables may be hindered by subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy that are still in place in many countries. These interventions keep prices of non-renewable power artificially low, the report stated.
"Creating a level playing field would strengthen the development and use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies," said Christine Lins, REN21 executive secretary.
"Removing fossil-fuel and hidden nuclear subsidies globally would make it evident that renewables are the cheapest energy option."