Influential commentators in Japan, Germany, Russia, the US, China, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Yemen and numerous other nations have all weighed in on the need to de-emphasise nuclear and focus on renewables in the wake of the Japanese tsunami and nuclear disaster. So concludes the Ernst & Young 2011 All Renewables Index.
At the same time, recent unrest and the risk of further conflict in the Middle East and North Africa region have highlighted crucial issues around energy supply security and oil price volatility. European governments have slashed budgets and reduced feed-in tariffs (FiTs), causing solar cell prices to fall while solar manufacturers' margins are being squeezed due to rising silicon and other commodity costs.
China has climbed to its highest ever score in the Index, principally by diversifying its renewables portfolio through an increased focus on offshore wind and CSP.
While China surpassed the US to become the world's largest energy consumer in 2010, environmental targets set out in the 12th Five-Year Plan include an increase in the proportion of energy from non-fossil fuels to 11.3 percent by 2015, from the current 8.3 percent. To meet this target, China says it intends to build at least 70 GW of new wind farms and 5 GW of new solar farms.
According to the report, the latest statistics indicate that, in 2010, the China Development Bank (CDB) made around $35 billion in low-interest credit available to Chinese renewables companies. This compares with the $4 billion of grants and $16 billion in loan guarantees awarded to clean-tech companies in the US.
China overtook the US at the end of 2010 to become the world leader in wind power, having installed around 16 GW in 2010 or almost half of global installations - taking cumulative installed capacity to 42 GW. This is contrasted with an additional 5 GW installed in the US last year and a total of 40 GW.
However, China ranks second globally in terms of grid-connected capacity; more than a third of wind capacity had yet to be connected to the national grid at the end of 2010.
China's PV market also experienced strong growth in 2010, installing around 1 GW and taking cumulative capacity to 2.6 GW. The latest figures also show that the US now has 17 CSP plants, totaling 507 MW. The DOE has set a goal of reducing the cost of solar to $1 per watt (parity) in the next decade.
India continues to slowly climb the rankings, leaving Germany in fourth position, a sign that developers are favouring countries with high economic growth. In order to meet the government's ambitious plans for wind and solar, Suzlon Energy intends to invest $1.3 billion to develop 1 GW of new wind in Gujarat by 2013.
Germany has dropped a point due to the solar benchmarking exercise. In addition, the long-term horizon for wind power growth in Germany has been revised down as the industry matures and space for new development becomes limited.
Italy has dropped two points in light of the new decree on phased reductions to FITs for solar PV from June 2011 onward.
In the UK, the results of the Department of Energy and Climate Change's "fast track review" of FITs for solar PV has resulted in dramatic cuts for installations over 50 kW, due to come into effect on August 1, 2011. This, coupled with additional market uncertainties, have caused the UK to fall three points.
France has slipped a point due to continued uncertainty over its tendering system for large-scale solar. First Solar Inc. and EDF Energies Nouvelles SA have placed a 120-MW project on hold until more clarity has been unveiled.
The fall of Portugal's government, the downgrading in sovereign credit rating and that of the Portuguese utility, Energias de Portugal, combined with an EU bailout, have all dampened the outlook. As a result, Portugal has fallen four points. However, it has benefited from the CSP benchmarking.
Brazil has risen four places as it seeks to reduce its reliance on large-scale hydropower and take advantage of strong Atlantic trade winds to develop offshore and build its onshore development pipeline of 5 GW to 2014.
Australia has fallen three points in the aftermath of the Queensland floods. The government has reduced spending on renewables by AU$1.8 billion (US$1.87 billion), including a reduction in the Solar Flagship Program intended to support large-scale solar.
Japan has dropped three places as the short-term focus on natural gas and fuel oil imports to replace lost nuclear power capacity is likely to hamper renewable energy investment. The long-term horizon is less clear, with analysts predicting that the government could favour distributed generation based on renewable technologies.
China installed 16 GW in 2010 or almost half of global installations NORDEX
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