New renewable energy capacity and investment are gradually surpassing that of
conventional (coal, gas and nuclear) energy, according to the Renewables 2010
Global Status Report, which was released late last week.
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Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century published its fifth annual report
alongside the UN Environment Program’s Global Trends in Sustainable Energy
Saudis, worried by Iran, inch toward nuclear power
Together, the two reports reveal interesting trends in
renewable energy over the past several years. Among their major findings are
that in 2008 and 2009, both the US and Europe added more new renewable energy
capacity than new fossil fuel capacity.
Experts predict that this year or
next, the entire world will be doing the same.
As of 2009, renewable
sources constituted 25 percent of global electric power capacity (1,230
gigawatts) out of 4,800 GW total from all sources, including coal, gas and
nuclear power, and 18% of all global power production.
represented 60% of newly installed power capacity in Europe, and more than 50%
in the US. The world as a whole should reach 50% or more in newly installed
power capacity from renewables in 2010 or 2011, according to the
The growing trend has been enabled by the explosion in the
number of countries with some form of policy to encourage renewables. From 55
countries in 2005, more than 100 now have such policies, including
Despite a 10% drop, Europe continued to lead the world in
investment in renewables, although Asia was not far behind – mostly because of
interest in China, which has been making a huge push toward renewables. Chinese
investments grew 53%, and 37 GW were installed, the most of any one
Overall, Asia invested $40.8 billion in 2009, up from $31.3b. in
2008. In fact, investment in Asia was significantly higher than investment in
North Americas, which suffered a drop from $33.3b. to $20.7b. Investment in
South America also slipped from $14.6b. to $11.6b.
If solar water heating
and rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installation costs are taken into account,
overall global investment continued to rise in 2009 despite the harsh toll the
economic crisis has taken on other industries, according to the UN
The Middle East and Africa continued to increase investment, from
$2.1b. in 2008 to $2.5b. in 2009. Israel appears in the tables and received
brief mention for its solar water heating policies, which were ahead of their
time when enacted 30 years ago.
Israel has also set a goal of producing
10% of its electricity with renewables by 2020, and a 20% cut in electricity
demand by the same year.
Compared to other countries, Israel’s renewable
energy sector is tiny and in its infancy. Roughly 30 MW out of more than 10,000
MW of electricity is now being produced from renewables.
Turning to a
breakdown by technology, wind power continued to reap the major investments for
the second year in a row.
“From 2005 to 2009 inclusive, the annual
average rate of growth in wind power capacity was 27%; solar hot water 21%;
ethanol production 20% and biodiesel production 51%. The use of biomass and
geothermal for power and heat also grew strongly,” according to the Renewables
2010 Global Status Report.
Wind was even more dominant as a destination
for investment in 2009 than in 2008, when it accounted for $59b. or 45% of all
financial investment in sustainable energy. In 2009, it accounted for $67b. and
its share rose to 56%.
Wind power additions reached a record high of 38
GW, 13.8 GW of which was installed in China, 10 GW in the US and 2.5 GW in
“Wind power existed in just a handful of countries in the 1990s,
but now exists in over 82 countries,” the report disclosed.
entrepreneurs are attempting to increase the country’s capacity, and the Public
Utility Authority- Electricity is working on a tariff. Nevertheless, much of the
government’s focus has remained on solar energy.
investment in solar PV reached a record $40b. in 2009. Remarkably,
grid-connected solar power has grown by an average of 60% each year for the past
decade, from 0.2 GW at the start of 2000 to 21 GW at the end of
Despite a drop in investment in 2009 for a variety of reasons,
solar PV additions nevertheless reached a record high of 7 GW in 2009. Germany
led with 3.8 GW added, or more than half of the global market. Other large
markets included Italy, Japan, the US, the Czech Republic and Belgium. Spain,
the world leader in 2008, saw installations plunge in 2009 after a policy cap
was exceeded, the report noted.
An estimated 70 million households
worldwide now employ solar hot water heating, the report assessed. Israel has
been a pioneer in the field, with the first solar water heating panels being
invented in the early 1950s, with mandatory installation in new buildings being
enacted in 1980. The National Infrastructure Ministry estimates that three to 4%
of Israel’s total energy demand is saved by solar hot water heating.
a per capita basis, Cyprus remained the world solar heating leader as of the end
of 2008, with 527 kilowatts thermal (kWth) per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by
Israel (371 kWth), where more than 80% of households heat their water with the
sun,” according to the Renewables 2010 report.
“Israel for a long time
was the only country with a national level mandate,” the authors wrote elsewhere
in the report.
Bio-fuels accounted for the energy equivalent of 8% of
global gasoline needs in 2009, with noted expansion in Latin America. However,
bio-fuel investment dropped off in the US, Europe and even Brazil, and
production capacity was not fully utilized.
Rounding out the list,
geothermal power suffered a 29% drop in financial investment in 2009, to $2b.
The Israeli company Ormat is the second- largest manufacturer of geothermal
power plants in the world. It has had positive growth for the past five
Energy efficiency has been called a “virtual power plant” and the
“first fuel,” since it reduces the need for more power plants. Apparently, the
message is getting across as “power storage and efficiency saw a 34% rise in
investment, to $4b.,” according to the report. “For the first time, energy-smart
technologies attracted more venture capital and private equity investment than
any other clean energy sector.”
In 2008, many countries, especially
Europe and the US, pledged massive funding for renewables. Since late
“green stimulus” initiatives shelled out nearly $200b. However, this
less than 10% of what was pledged. The two reports predicted that those
would really get rolling this year and next.
According to materials
provided by the organization, Ren21 is a global policy network that
forum for international leadership on renewable energy. Its goal is to
policy development for the rapid expansion of renewable energies in
and industrialized economies.
In just five years, its global status
report has become the most frequently referenced report on renewable
business and policy, serving a wide range of audiences from investors
government decision-makers to students, project developers, researchers