“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
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)
Global CSP capacity was up by nearly 0.9 GW (36 percent) in 2013 to reach 3.4 GW. The U.S. and Spain remained market leaders but markets are expanding to developing countries. Beyond the leading markets, capacity nearly tripled with projects coming on-line in the United Arab Emirates, India, and China. Thermal energy storage continued to gain in importance, but revised growth projections and competition from solar PV in some countries led a number of companies to close their CSP operations. The trend towards larger plants to take advantage of economies of scale was maintained, while improved design and manufacturing techniques reduced costs.
More than 35 GW of wind power capacity was added in 2013, making a total above 318 GW, but the market was down nearly 10 GW compared with 2012, reflecting the U.S. fall in installations.
The European Union remained the top region for cumulative capacity, with Asia nipping at its heels and set to take the lead in 2014. New markets continued to emerge with, for the first time, Latin America representing a significant share of 2013 installations. Wind power was excluded from one of Brazil’s national auctions because it was pricing all other generation sources out of the market.
Offshore wind had a record year, with 1.6 GW added, almost all of it in the EU. However, the record level hides delays due to policy uncertainty and project cancellations or downsizing.
Global bioenergy electricity generation capacity was up by an estimated 5 GW to 88 GW, producing more than 400 TWh in 2013. Liquid biofuels met about 2.3 percent of global transport fuel demand in 2013, with production up by 7.7 billion litres to reach 116.6 billion litres. Ethanol production was up 6 percent, biodiesel rose 11 percent, and hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) was up by 16 percent.
As of early 2014, at least 63 countries supported transport biofuels through regulatory policies, up from 49 in 2012, and some mandates were strengthened during 2013. In some countries, however, support for first-generation biofuels was reduced due to environmental and social sustainability concerns and overall investment in new biofuel plant capacity continued to decline from its 2007 peak.
Within the bioenergy sector, 2013 trends included the increasing use of renewables in combined heat and power plants and district heating and cooling systems. Hybrid solutions in the building sector and growing use of renewable heat for industrial purposes also featured. Meanwhile, demand is driving increased international trade in biofuels, including wood pellets, and new advanced biofuel production plants were commissioned in Europe and North America.
About 530 MW of new geothermal generating capacity came on-line in 2013, bringing total global capacity to 12 GW and representing 4 percent annual growth. Governments and industry have continued technological innovation to increase efficiency and the use of low-temperature fields for both power and heat continues to expand.
Solar Thermal Heating and Cooling
Solar water and air collector capacity reached an estimated 330 GWth by the end of 2013 with China accounting for more than 80 percent of the global market. Demand in key European markets continued to slow, but expanded in countries such as Brazil. The trend towards deploying large domestic systems continued, as did growing interest in district heating, cooling, and industrial applications. China maintained its lead in manufacturing while Europe saw accelerated consolidation during the year, with several large suppliers announcing their exit from the sector. Industry expectations for market development are brightest in India and Greece.
As renewable energy markets and industries mature, the report notes, they increasingly face new and different challenges, as well as a wide range of opportunities. In 2013, renewables faced declining policy support and uncertainty in many European countries and the U.S. Grid-related constraints, utility opposition and continuing subsidies for fossil fuels were also issues.
Nonetheless, markets, manufacturing, and investment expanded further across the developing world, and it became increasingly evident that renewables are no longer dependent upon a small handful of countries, the authors’ state. They add that continuing technological advances, falling prices, and innovations in financing means renewables have become increasingly affordable for a broader range of consumers. According to Janet Sawin, the report’s lead author, “renewable energy is considered crucial for meeting current and future energy needs in a growing number of countries.”
“Global perceptions of renewable energy have shifted considerably,” concludes Arthouros Zervos, chair of REN21. He continues: “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.”
Lead image: Green world map via Shutterstock