Despite Financial Crisis, Renewables Surged Forward in 2010

It seems that 2010 was yet another record year for wind power, which was propelled to a global installed total of 200 GW by 39.4 GW of new capacity over the year – an impressive rise of about 25 percent in total installations, even if this annual figure for new installations edged up by only three percent from 2009.

The latest World Wind Market Update from BTM, now part of Navigant Consulting, found that Chinese turbine manufacturers have made further gains in their home market, squeezing foreign-owned manufacturers by 3.5 percentage points down to a 10.5 percent market share in 2010. China’s Sinovel is now ranked as the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer behind Vestas. Sinovel’s new installed wind power capacity grew from 3510 MW in 2009 to 4386 MW in 2010, with its global market share up from 9.2 percent to 11.1 percent, according to BTM.

Global investment in renewable power and fuels has apparently defied the global economic crisis to set a new record in 2010, according to a new analysis commissioned by the UN Environment Programme. Indeed, investment hit $211 billion, up 32 percent from 2009’s $160 billion.

As in the wind sector, nations beyond the traditional stronghold of Europe and America are emerging as increasingly important players on the global stage. In terms of investment, the developing world has now overtaken the richer countries for the first time. What’s more, the continuing shift in the balance of power in renewable energy towards developing countries is no longer a story of China alone.

In the PV sector, the strong growth of the past five years – at a compound annual rate of 65 percent – is not due to luck, or to a recognition that a switch to renewables is imperative. Rather, the trend reflects decades of development in technology, markets and business strategy. In 2010, the industry reached multi-gigawatt scale in terms of annual growth and cumulative capacity and, again, much of this progress has emerged from developing nations.

The renewables sector as a whole is unquestionably buoyant, despite the repercussions of the financial crisis. Yet it must also be recognised that unpredictable policies on financial support are still affecting some markets for renewable energy. Investment decisions have increasingly been focused on those sectors where better margins can be achieved.

The traditional leading markets of Europe and the U.S. can only expect fiercer competition, not just in terms of technology and its development, but also in attracting the continued investment necessary to achieve their clean energy policy goals. Ultimately, policymakers must put in place stable, long-term measures if growth is to be maintained across all the world’s diverse renewable energy markets.

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