Janet L. Sawin, Contributor
October 18, 2012 | 0 Comments
Renewable energy markets and policy frameworks have evolved rapidly in recent years. Despite a challenging economic backdrop, reports reveal growth across all sectors.
REN21's Renewables Global Status Report — an overview of renewable energy market, industry, investment and policy developments worldwide, relying on an international network of more than 400 contributors — reveals that the sector continued to expand across all its various segments.
Renewable sources supplied an estimated 16.7 percent of global final energy consumption in 2010. Of this total, modern renewable energy (as opposed to traditional biomass) accounted for an estimated 8.2 percent, a share that has increased in recent years, while the share from traditional biomass has declined slightly to an estimated 8.5 percent. During 2011, modern renewables continued to grow strongly in all end-use sectors.
In the power sector, renewables accounted for almost half of the estimated 208 GW of electric capacity added globally during 2011. Wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) accounted for almost 40 percent and 30 percent of new renewable capacity respectively, followed by hydropower (nearly 25 percent). By end 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide exceeded 1360 GW, up 8 percent over 2010; renewables comprised more than 25 percent of total global power-generating capacity (estimated at 5360 GW in 2011) and supplied an estimated 20.3 per cent of global electricity. Non-hydropower renewables exceeded 390 GW, a 24 percent capacity increase over 2010.
The heating and cooling sector offers an immense yet mostly untapped potential for renewable energy deployment. Heat from biomass, solar and geothermal sources already represents a significant portion of the energy derived from renewables, and the sector is slowly evolving.
Renewable energy is used in the transport sector in the form of gaseous and liquid biofuels; liquid biofuels provided about 3 percent of global road transport fuels in 2011, more than any other renewable energy source in the sector.
Market and industry highlights
Solar PV grew the fastest of all renewable technologies between 2006 and 2011, with operating capacity increasing by an average of 58 percent annually, followed by concentrating solar thermal power (CSP), which increased almost 37 percent annually over this period from a small base, and wind power (26 percent). Demand is also growing rapidly for solar thermal heat systems, geothermal ground-source heat pumps, and some solid biomass fuels, such as wood pellets. Biodiesel production expanded in 2011 but ethanol production was stable or down slightly compared with 2010. Hydropower and geothermal power are growing globally at rates averaging 2 percent-3 percent per year.
Wind power capacity increased by 20 per cent in 2011 to approximately 238 GW by year-end, seeing the greatest capacity additions of any renewable technology. As in 2010, more new capacity was added in developing countries and emerging markets than in OECD countries. China accounted for almost 44 per cent of the global market (adding slightly less capacity than it did in 2010), followed by the U.S. and India; Germany remained the largest market in Europe.
A year of extraordinary market growth, solar PV added almost 30 GW of operating capacity, increasing total global capacity by 74 percent to almost 70 GW. For the first time ever, PV accounted for more capacity additions in the E.U. than any other technology. While the E.U. again dominated the global market, led by Italy and Germany, markets expanded in other regions, and China has rapidly emerged as the dominant player in Asia. Module manufacturing continued its marked shift to Asia, mainly at the expense of European firms.
The growing use of biomass for heat, electricity and transport fuels has resulted in increasing international trade in biomass fuels in recent years, particularly wood pellets, biodiesel and fuel ethanol (for more on this, see page 76-80). Biomass, in the form of both solid and gaseous fuels, continues to provide the majority of heating produced with renewable energy sources. Markets are expanding rapidly, particularly in Europe, where biomass is used increasingly in district heat systems. Biomass power capacity increased from about 66 GW in 2010 to almost 72 GW at the end of 2011. The U.S. leads the world in biomass-based power generation, with other significant producers in the E.U. in addition to Brazil, China, India, and Japan.
Solar heating capacity increased by an estimated 27 percent in 2011 to reach approximately 232 GWth, excluding unglazed swimming pool heating. China again led the world for solar thermal installations, with Europe a distant second. Most solar thermal is used for water heating, but solar space heating and cooling are gaining ground, particularly in Europe.
More than 450 MW of concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) was installed in 2011, bringing global capacity to almost 1760 MW. Spain accounted for the vast majority of capacity additions, while several developing countries launched their first CSP plants. Although CSP faced challenges associated with rapidly falling PV prices and the Arab Spring, which slowed development in the MENA region, significant capacity was under construction around the world by the year's end.
Geothermal energy provided an estimated 205 TWh (736 PJ) in 2011, with two thirds in the form of heat and the remaining one-third as electricity. At least 78 countries used direct geothermal energy in 2011. Most of the growth in direct use was associated with ground source heat pumps (GHP), which can provide heating and cooling and have experienced growth rates averaging 20 per cent annually. Growth in electric capacity was modest, with an estimated 11.2 GW in place at year's end, but the rate of deployment is expected to accelerate.
An estimated 25 GW of new hydropower capacity came on line in 2011, increasing global installed capacity by nearly 2.7 per cent to approximately 970 GW. Hydropower continues to generate more electricity than any other renewable resource, with an estimated 3400 TWh produced during 2011. Asia was the most active region for new projects. Hydropower is increasingly providing balancing services, including expansion of pumped storage capacity — not counted in 970 GW total — in part to accommodate the increased use of variable solar and wind resources.
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