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 today by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).
Renewables accounted for 60 per cent of newly installed capacity in Europe and more than 50 per cent 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.
They say investment in core clean energy (new renewables, biofuels and energy efficiency) decreased by 7% in 2009, to $162 billion. Many sub-sectors declined significantly in money invested, including large (utility) scale solar power and biofuels. However, there was record investment in wind power. If spending on solar water heaters, as well as total installation costs for rooftop solar PV, were included, total investment in 2009 actually increased in 2009, bucking the economic trend.
New private and public sector investments in core clean energy leapt 53 per cent in China in 2009. China added 37 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity, more than any other country.
Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable power capacity was added, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity.
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.
Wind power and solar PV additions reached a record high of 38 GW and 7 GW, respectively. Investment totals in utility-scale solar PV declined relative to 2008, partly a result of large drops in the costs of solar PV. However, this decline was offset by record investment in small-scale (rooftop) solar PV projects.
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.