LONDON -- More than a fifth of the world's electrical power production now comes from renewable sources and in 2013 renewables accounted for more than 56 percent of all net additions to global power capacity. These remarkable conclusions come from this year’s Renewables Global Status Report (GSR) from REN21. This highly-regarded annual analysis — the 2014 edition was released this summer — concludes that renewable electricity capacity jumped by more than 8 percent overall in 2013, to produce some 22 percent of all global power production. Total global installed renewable electricity capacity reached a staggering 1,560 GW in 2013.
“Over the last 10 years, continuing technology advances and rapid deployment of many renewable energy technologies have demonstrated that the question is no longer whether renewables have a role to play in the provision of energy services, but rather how we can best increase the current pace to achieve a 100 percent renewables future with full energy access for all.” -- Arthouros Zervos, chair of REN21
The Policy Landscape
At the end of 2013, China, the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Germany remained the top five countries for total installed renewable power capacity. Excluding hydro, the top three were again China, the U.S. and Germany, but now followed by Spain and Italy and in sixth spot, India. Aside from the bare facts, the report also identifies a number of hotspots. For example, China's new renewable power capacity surpassed new fossil and nuclear capacity for the first time in 2013 while per capita, Denmark’s non-hydro renewable capacity places it as a clear lead. In the European Union, renewables represented the majority of new electric generating capacity for the sixth consecutive year, with a 72 percent share. But, relative to annual GDP, Uruguay, Mauritius, and Costa Rica were among the top countries for investment in new renewable power and fuels in 2013.
At least 144 countries now have renewable energy targets in place with 138 having renewable energy support policies, up from the 138 and 127, respectively, seen in 2012.
Inevitably policy mechanisms continued to evolve in 2013, with increasing differentiation by technology. Feed-in policies and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) remained the most commonly used support mechanism. Many countries with existing feed-in policies shifted towards premium payment schemes to top up prices traded on electricity markets. Competitive bidding gained further prominence, with the number of countries turning to public auctions rising from nine in 2009 to 55 as of early 2014.
Furthermore, the report also identifies a trend, particularly in Europe, that is seeing new policies emerge that respond to the issue of grid integration of renewable energy. This is in some cases being manifested as support for energy storage, demand-side management, and smart grid technologies, REN 21 finds. Indeed, variable output renewables achieved high levels of penetration in several countries in 2013, with wind meeting more than a third of Denmark’s and more than a fifth of Spain’s electricity demand. Meanwhile, solar met 7.8 percent of the total 2013 electricity demand in Italy.
In addition, a growing numbers of cities, states, and regions are developing strategies to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. For example, Djibouti, Scotland, and Tuvalu are targeting 100 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2020. Among those who have already achieved their goals are about 20 million Germans who live in so-called 100 percent renewable energy regions, the authors note.
This policy momentum continued in 2013 with city and local governments increasingly using their authority to regulate, make expenditure and procurement decisions, facilitate and ease the financing of renewable energy projects.
However, 2013 also saw an increasing focus on revision to existing policies, including retroactive changes that reduced financial support, either to improve policy effectiveness or to curb rising costs associated with renewables support schemes.
In some cases the reductions have exceeded even the rapid decline in technology costs, the report says. In Europe, policy uncertainty has also increased the cost of capital; as a result, the region continued to see a significant loss of start-up companies, especially in the solar PV sector, during 2013.
In the last five years, the report finds, hydropower capacity has increased by nearly 4 percent annually to approximately 1,000 GW. In 2013, hydropower and solar PV each accounted for about one-third of new renewable power capacity; however, solar PV has experienced the fastest growth of any energy technology, with growth in global capacity of 39 percent in 2013 and averaging almost 55 percent annually over the last five years. Non-hydro renewables for electricity generation, including wind, collectively grew nearly 17 percent during 2013 to more than 560 GW.
Hydropower and Marine/tidal
Global hydropower generation during 2013 was an estimated 3,750 TWh and about 40 GW of new capacity was commissioned over the year. By far the most capacity was installed in China at 29 GW, with significant capacity also added in Turkey, Brazil, Vietnam, India, and Russia.
Growth in the industry has been relatively steady in recent years, fuelled primarily by China’s expansion but modernisation of ageing hydropower facilities is another growing global market. There also is increasing recognition of the grid support potential for hydropower to complement other renewables.
Ocean energy capacity, mostly tidal power generation, was about 530 MW by the end of 2013 and a handful of pilot installations were deployed, notably in the U.K. and France. A key trend is the continued strategy of major corporations to consolidate their positions through partnerships and acquisitions.
The global solar PV market had a record year, after a brief slowdown, installing more capacity than any other renewable technology except perhaps hydropower. Even as global investment in solar PV declined nearly 22 percent compared with 2012, new capacity installations increased by more than 27 percent. The solar PV market had a record year, adding about 38 GW for a total of around 138 GW. China accounted for nearly a third of the total global capacity added, followed by Japan and the U.S. During 2013, module prices stabilised, while production costs continued to fall and cell efficiencies to increase. Lower prices are opening up new markets from Africa and the Middle East to Asia and Latin America, while interest has continued to grow in corporate- and community-owned systems. --continued on next page ---