London, UK Widely considered to be the definitive guide to the renewables industry, the REN21 Renewables 2010 Global Status Report declares that renewables have now reached a clear tipping point in the context of global energy supply.
Stating that renewables comprised fully one quarter of global power capacity from all sources and delivered 18% of global electricity supply in 2009, the analysis finds that investment in new renewable power capacity in both 2008 and 2009 represented over half of the total global investment in new power generation.
According to the REN21 report, grid-connected solar PV has grown by an average of 60% every year for the past decade and, during the five years from 2005 to 2009, wind power capacity grew by an average of 27%, solar hot water by 19%, and ethanol production by 20% annually. By early 2010 more than 100 countries had enacted some type of renewable energy policy target, many of which call for shares of energy or electricity from renewables in the 15%-25% range by 2020.
Turning to the Americas, despite some concerns over future market stability — as examined by our US Correspondent — two new wind sector studies also detail significant expansion and positive outlook for both the US and Latin American markets. ‘Wind Technologies Market Report’, a new study released by the US Department of Energy and prepared by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, finds that — at 10 GW — wind power additions in the US grew by 40% and set a new record, representing a total investment of some US$21 billion.
And a recent IHS Emerging Energy Research report concludes that the Latin American region is set to become a global wind powerhouse in the coming decade, as a market of more than 40 GW of total installed wind capacity will emerge by 2025.
As encouraging as these reports undoubtedly are, challenges remain in sustaining growth in an environment of financial austerity. For example, integrating an ever-growing proportion of variable-output renewables electricity requires much more sophisticated grid management and there will inevitably be additional costs associated with such a requirement.
One technique that supports improved grid management for variable renewables is the use of electricity storage, on which we have reported the latest developments.
But there is even more to come it seems. The Energy [R]evolution study carried out by the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) shows how 97% of Europe’s electricity and 92% of its total energy use could come from renewables in 2050.
Given the state of the industry today, such ambitions at last seem credible.
David Appleyard is chief editor of Renewable Energy World
P.S. It’s conference season again, and the Renewable Energy World team looks forward to seeing you at the many events we’ll be attending — and especially at our own Renewable Energy World Asia event in Singapore, 2—4 November.