The silent Energy Revolution

July 7, 2011 | 00:00

The silent Energy Revolution

The bright future for renewable energy is already underway. This new analysis of the global power plant market shows that since the late 1990s, wind and solar installations grew faster than any other power plant technology across the world - about 430,000 MW total installed capacity between 2000 and 2010.

However it is too early to claim the end of the fossil fuel based power generation, as at the same time more than 475,000 MW new coal power plants, with embedded cumulative emissions of over 55 bn tonnes CO2 over their technical lifetime. The global market volume of renewable energies in 2010 was on average, as much as the total global energy market volume each year between 1970 and 2000. The
window of opportunity for renewables to both dominate new installations replacing old plants in OECD countries, as well as ongoing electrification in developing countries, closes within the next years. Good renewable energy policies and legally binding CO2 reduction targets are urgently needed.

This briefing provides an overview of the global annual power plant market of the past 40 years and a vision of its potential growth over the next 40 years, powered by renewable energy. Between 1970 and 1990, OECD1 countries that electrified their economies mainly with coal, gas and hydro power plants dominated the global power plant market. The power sector, at this time, was in the hands of state-owned utilities with regional or nationwide supply monopolies. The nuclear industry had a relatively short period of steady growth between 1970 and the mid 1980s - with a peak in 1985, one year before the Chernobyl accident - while the following years were in decline, with no sign of a ‘nuclear renaissance’, despite the rhetoric.

Between 1990 and 2000, the global power plant industry went through a series of changes. While OECD countries began to liberalise their electricity markets, electricity demand did not match previous growth, so fewer new power plants were built. Capital-intensive projects with long payback times, such as coal and nuclear power plants, were unable to get sufficient financial support. The decade of gas power plants started.

To read the full report, click here.


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