In 2009, for the second year in a row, both the US and Europe added more power capacity from renewable sources such as wind and solar than conventional sources like coal, gas and nuclear, according to twin reports launched by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).
Renewables accounted for 60% of newly installed capacity in Europe and more than 50% in the USA in 2009. This year or next, experts predict, the world as a whole will add more capacity to the electricity supply from renewable than non-renewable sources. The reports detail trends in the global green energy sector, including which sources attracted the greatest attention from investors and governments in different world regions.
Highlights from report:
Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable power capacity was added in 2009, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity. This combined renewables figure is now closing in on the 83GW of fossil-fuel, thermal capacity installed in the same year. If the trend continues, then 2010 or 2011 could be the first year that new capacity added in low carbon power exceeds that in fossil-fuel stations.
Investment in renewable energy power capacity (excluding large hydro) in 2009 was comparable to that in fossil-fuel generation, at around $100 billion each. If the estimated $39 billion of investment in large hydro is included, then total investment in renewables exceeded that in fossil-fuel generation for the second successive year.
China surpassed the US in 2009 as the country with the greatest investment in clean energy. China’s wind farm development was the strongest investment feature of the year by far, although there were other areas of strength worldwide in 2009, notably North Sea offshore wind investment and the financing of power storage and electric vehicle technology companies.
The reports also show that countries with policies encouraging renewable energy have roughly doubled from 55 in 2005 to more than 100 today – half of them in the developing world – and have played a critically important role in the sector’s rapid growth.
The full report can be downloaded form the UNEP website (pre-registration required)
Photo from Creative Commons: Flickr: Suncor Energy