PARIS — A recently completed report commissioned by the United Nations reveals that the construction of renewable energy plants outpaced the building of fossil fuel powered generators in Europe and the United States last year.
The Renewables 2010 Global Status Report, undertaken by policy research firm Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, reports that renewable energy facilities accounted for 60 percent of new power plants built in Europe in 2009. In the U.S., more than half the plants built last year were green electricity producers.
According to REN21, solar generating capacity increased 53 percent worldwide last year, while wind power saw a 32 percent boost globally, solar hot water/heating a 21 percent growth, and geothermal power a four percent increase. Staff members at the research firm say 2009 was the second year in a row in the United States and Europe when more renewable energy sources were built than fossil fuel facilities.
Globally, renewable energy made up 18 percent of the world’s electricity supply in 2009, according to the report, while 80 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added worldwide in 2009, including 31 GW of hydroelectric power and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity.
The REN21 report states that more than 85 countries had renewable energy policy targets last year, a number that is up more than 50 percent from 2005.
“Favorable policies in more than 100 countries have played a critical role,” says Mohamed El-Ashry, chairman of REN21. “For the upward trend of renewable energy growth to continue, policy efforts now need to be taken to the next level and encourage a massive scale-up of technologies.”
China was a key player in the renewable energy market in 2009, adding more green power capacity than any other country in the world. China added 37 gigawatts of renewable energy sources last year, bringing its total to 226 GW. The Chinese also produced a major portion of the renewable energy products used worldwide, including 40 percent of the world’s photovoltaic panels and 30 percent of the wind turbines.
Investments in renewables was down from 2008, according to REN21, which stated that $162 billion was spent on green energy sources last year while $173 billion was invested the year previous. Authors of the study say record levels of investments were made in wind power in 2009, particularly in China and the North Sea.
Another highlight of the report: biomass use saw record highs worldwide, particularly in Sweden where biomass production accounted for more of the country’s energy than oil for the first time in 2009. In addition, green stimulus efforts by the world’s major economies hit close to the $200 billion mark and Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar became the first firm in the world to build 1 GW of solar facilities in a year.
Read the complete report at www.rent21.net.