Viewpoint: Editor’s note on the growth in renewable capacity

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% 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 in June 2014 — concludes that renewable electricity capacity jumped by more than 8% overall in 2013, to produce some 22% of all global power production. Total global installed renewable electricity capacity reached a staggering 1,560 GW in 2013.

Aside from the bare facts, the report also identifies a number of hotspots. For example, leading hydropower developer China saw its total new renewable power capacity surpass new fossil and nuclear capacity for the first time in 2013. And relative to annual GDP, hydro-resource-rich countries such as Uruguay were among the top countries for investment in new renewable power and fuels in 2013.

In the past five years, the report finds, hydropower capacity has increased by nearly 4% annually to about 1,000 GW. In 2013, estimated installations for hydropower and solar photovoltaic each accounted for about one-third of new renewable capacity. The hydropower increase is estimated at 4.2% for 2013.

Global hydropower generation during 2013 was an estimated 3,750 TWh, and about 40 GW of new capacity was commissioned. 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 modernization of aging facilities is another growing market. There also is increasing recognition of the grid support potential for hydropower, REN21 says.

Indeed, the report 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, REN21 finds. The emergence of ancillary services markets represents a particular benefit to hydropower plant operators due to their generally responsive operational characteristics — run of river being the possible exception — particularly in respect to pumped storage capacity.

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. As Arthouros Zervos, chair of REN21, noted: “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% renewables future with full energy access for all.” Hydropower has a big role to play in realizing that future.

On another note, you may have noticed that the magazine has a new look. We are rolling out a redesign of the magazine with this issue. We hope you enjoy it!

David Appleyard
Chief Editor

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