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2010 Global Recap: A Year of Continued Growth

Renewable energy continued its global surge in 2010, accounting for about half of the 194 gigawatts of new installed capacity, according to the REN21 Renewables 2011 Global Status Report.

“The global performance of renewable energy, despite headwinds, has been a positive constant in turbulent times”, said Mohamed El-Ashry, Chairman of REN21’s steering committee. “Today, more people than ever before derive energy from renewables as capacity continues to grow, prices continue to fall, and shares of global energy from renewable energy continue to increase.”

In 2010, renewable energy supplied an estimated 16 percent of global final energy consumption and delivered close to 20 percent of global electricity production. Still led by hydropower, renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity.

According to the report, renewable energy policies continue to be the main driver behind renewable energy growth. By early 2011, at least 119 countries had some type of policy target or renewable support policy at the national level, more than doubling from 55 countries in early 2005. More than half of these countries are in the developing world.

At least 95 countries now have some type of policy to support renewable power generation. Of all the policies employed by governments, feed-in tariffs remain the most common.

Last year, investment reached a record $211 billion in renewables -- about one-third more than the $160 billion invested in 2009, and more than five times the amount invested in 2004.

Money invested in renewable energy companies, and in utility-scale generation and biofuel projects increased to $143 billion, with developing countries surpassing developed economies for the first time, as shown in the GSR’s recently released companion report, UNEP Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011. China attracted $48.5 billion, or more than a third of the global total, but other developing countries also experienced major developments in terms of policies, investments, market trends and manufacturing.

Developing Nations

Beyond Asia, significant advances are also seen in many Latin American countries, and at least 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa have active renewable energy markets, the report says.

“The increased renewable energy activity in developing countries highlighted in this year’s report is very encouraging, since most of the future growth in energy demand is expected to occur in developing countries,” said El-Ashry. “More and more of the world’s people are gaining access to energy services through renewables, not only to meet their basic needs, but also to enable them to develop economically.”

Renewable energy in even the most remote areas is ensuring that more of the world’s people are gaining access to basic energy services, including lighting and communications, cooking, heating and cooling, and water pumping, while also generating economic growth through services such as motive power.

Solar and Wind

Global solar PV production and markets more than doubled from 2009 behind strong government incentive programs and the continued price decrease of PV modules. Germany led all global installations, adding more PV in 2010 than the entire world added in 2009. PV markets in Japan and the U.S. almost doubled relative to 2009.

In 2010, existing solar water and space heating capacity increased by an estimated 25 gigawatts-thermal (GWth), or about 16 percent.

Globally, wind power added the most new capacity (followed by hydropower and solar PV), but for the first time ever, Europe added more PV than wind capacity.

Around the World

  • The top five countries for non-hydro renewable power capacity were the United States, China, Germany, Spain and India.
  • In the United States, renewables accounted for about 10.9 percent of U.S. domestic primary energy production (compared with nuclear’s 11.3 percent), an increase of 5.6 percent over 2009. Thirty states, plus Washington, D.C., have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
  • China led the world in the installation of wind turbines and solar thermal systems and was the top hydropower producer in 2010. The country added an estimated 29 GW of grid-connected renewable capacity, for a total of 252 GW, an increase of 13 percent compared with 2009. Renewables accounted for about 26 percent of China’s total installed electric capacity in 2010, 18 percent of generation, and more than 9 percent of final energy supply.
  • Brazil produces virtually all of the world’s sugar-derived ethanol, and has been adding new hydropower, biomass and wind power plants, as well as solar heating systems.
  • In the European Union, renewables represented an estimated 41 percent of newly installed electric capacity. While this share was significantly lower than the more than 60 percent of new capacity in 2009, more renewable power capacity was added in Europe than ever before. 
  • The EU exceeded its 2010 targets for wind, solar PV, concentrating solar thermal power, and heating/heat pumps. Countries including Finland, Germany, Spain and Taiwan raised their targets, and South Africa, Guatemala, and India, among others, introduced new ones.
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