London, UK [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] Here we are, just a short way into 2009, and yet so much seems to have happened that may deeply influence the development of the renewable energy sector. Put together, it really seems like we may have reached that long-awaited ‘tipping point’. Most visibly of course, there’s a new US President in the White House; President Obama has announced – including in his inaugural address – his intention to support much greater use of renewable energy in order to increase energy independence, counter climate change and create jobs in the new economy. Plans are unfolding as this issue goes to press, but the Obama–Biden ‘New Energy for America plan’ aims to help create five million new jobs by strategically investing US$150 billion over the next decade.
And then there was Europe’s gas shock in the first weeks of the new year, when the flow of gas from Russia was interrupted. Back in January 2006, when Russia briefly cut the supply to Ukraine, it gave a remarkable wake-up call to European policymakers and a renewed focus on renewables. This time, people in Brussels (the home of the European Commission) can be heard jokingly referring to Russia as ‘Europe’s best renewables advocate’.
January has also seen the launch of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a new, high-level international body set to become an authoritative voice for renewable energy – along the lines of the International Energy Agency (IEA) but with a specific focus. While the IEA is restricted to OECD countries, and the IAEA to those with atomic power, IRENA has a global reach. More than 120 countries sent government delegations to Bonn, Germany, for the founding conference of this new agency, and over seventy industrialized and developing countries have formalized their participation. (There’s more in our news section, and you may have read the Last Word article on IRENA in our November–December issue.)
Numbers are just in on last year’s growth in the wind sector from around the world: a total of 27 GW worldwide, up 36% on 2007. In Europe, 2008 saw wind power installations account for more new power generation capacity (43%) than any other, including gas. European Union member states added 19.6 GW of new wind generation last year, the US almost 8.4 GW and China 6.3 GW of new wind. (See our feature on wind power in China on page 24.) There’s no denying the sector’s scale and maturity now.
And the REW team aims to keep it all covered. Coming up from Renewable Energy World this year are our two main annual events, the first being Renewable Energy World Conference and Expo North America in Las Vegas in March, with Renewable Energy World Europe in Cologne in May. The first Renewable Energy World Asia will be taking place in Bangkok in the autumn. In the meantime, following the successful PV and CSP webcasts last year, we have a range of webcasts coming up. Do look our for announcements – participation is free and there’s no travel required! And last but not least is the Renewable Energy World network’s new magazine Photovoltaics World. This new title (first issue March) comes from our Nashua-based Technology Group (which produces titles including Solid State Technology and the PV Times e-newsletter), and focuses on PV manufacturing and technology – see www.pvworld.com.
Editorial Director, Renewable Energy World Magazine