Renewables 2011 Global Status Report: Strong Growth and Increased Geographical Distribution

July 12, 2011 | 00:00

Renewables 2011 Global Status Report: Strong Growth and Increased Geographical Distribution

In the wake of global (energy) turmoil embodied in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the global financial crisis, the Arab Spring and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Mohamed El-Ashry, Chairman of the Paris-based renewable energy network ‘REN21’, reminds us that ‘A positive constant amid this turbulence has been the global performance of renewable energy.’

REN21’s Renewables Global Status Report (GSR) provides a yearly update of the status of renewable energy worldwide, since its first publication in 2005. Today, the 2011 version was released, Rick Bosman summarizes the highlights for EER.

The GSR finds that ‘despite the recession, total global investment in renewable energy broke a new record in 2010. Investment in renewable power and fuels reached $211 billion, up 32 % from $160 billion the previous year.’ Furthermore, renewable energy accounted for approximately half of the estimated 194 gigawatts (GW) of new electric capacity added globally during the year 2010. However, renewable sources tend to have a lower load factor than conventional sources of energy and therefore a lower output for similar installed capacity. In total, renewable energy provided 19,4 % of global electricity supply in 2010 and 16 % of final energy consumption in 2009 (most recent numbers).

Trends reflect strong growth and investment across all market sectors. The GSR shows that from 2005 to 2010, total global capacity of most renewable energy technologies grew at average rates ranging from around 15 % to 50 % annually, photovoltaics (PV) even showed growth figures of over 100 % in 2010. Wind power was responsible for most new capacity added in 2010 with 38 GW, summing up to 198 GW in total, followed by hydropower adding 30 GW (1,010 GW in total) and solar PV, which more than doubled installed capacity in 2010, compared to 2009 (7.3 GW in 2009, 17 GW in 2010, 40 GW in total).

Geographical Distribution
The countries showing strongest growth in different areas last year were China and Germany. China leads in raising investments for new renewable capacity ($49 billion) and in adding wind power (18.9 GW, 50 % of global new installed capacity) and solar hot water systems (17,5 GWth). Germany came first in new installations of PV-systems (7.4 GW, 44 % of total global installation) and biodiesel production (2.9 billion liters, 13 % of total global production).

Next to these interesting statistics, the report observes a trend of increased activity in the renewable energy sector in developing countries: 119 countries worldwide now have policies in place to support the development of renewable energy and at least half of them are in the developing world. The main reason for this development according to REN21, is that ‘off-grid renewable solutions are increasingly acknowledged to be the cheapest and most sustainable options for rural areas in much of the developing world.’

Furthermore, the report finds that an ‘increasing geographic diversity in markets and manufacturing is boosting confidence that renewable are less vulnerable to policy or market dislocations in any specific country’, diminishing fears that policy revisions in individual countries could lead to collapse of the renewables sector as a whole.

The full ‘Renewables 2011 Global Status Report’ can be accessed here.

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