Power capacity from new renewable energy sources reached 280,000 megawatts (MW) in 2008

Solar heating capacity increased by 15 percent to 145 gigawatts-thermal (GWth). More renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in both the European Union and United States for the first time ever.

“The recent growth of the sector has surpassed all predictions, even those made by the industry itself,” says El-Ashry, adding that much of this growth was due to more favourable policies amidst increasing concerns about climate change and energy security.

During 2008, a number of governments enacted new policies, and many countries set ambitious targets. Today, at least 73 countries have renewable energy policy targets, up from 66 at the end of 2007. In response to the financial crisis, several governments have directed economic stimulus funding towards the new green jobs the renewable energy sector can provide, including the U.S. package that will invest $150 billion over ten years in renewable energy.

Developing countries – particularly China and India – are increasingly playing major roles in both the manufacture and installation of renewable energy. For example, China’s total wind power capacity doubled in 2008 for the fourth year running.

For several previous years, the modern renewable energy industry has been viewed as a “guaranteed-growth” sector, and even “crisis-proof” due to the global trends underlying its formidable growth throughout the past decade. In 2008, renewable energy resisted the credit crunch more successfully than many other sectors for much of the year and new investment reached $120 billion, up 16 percent over 2007. However, by the end of the year, the impact of the crisis was beginning to show.

El-Ashry stresses that “now is not the time to relax policies that support a global, expanding renewable energy sector. By maintaining – and expanding – these policies, governments, industry and society will reap substantial economic and environmental rewards when the economic rebound requires energy markets to meet rapidly increasing demand”.

Climate change and energy security, two of the main drivers of the renewable energy sector, are still at work. As the REN21 report shows, the renewable energy sector offers an essential path for growth that can stimulate economic recovery and job creation without the burden of increasing carbon emissions.

Wind Power

* Existing wind power capacity grew by 29 percent in 2008 to reach 121 GW, or more than double the 59 GW of capacity in place at the end of 2005.
* China doubled its wind power capacity for the fifth year in a row, ending 2008 at 12 GW, and breaching China’s 2010 development target of 10 GW two years early.

Renewable energy markets grew robustly in 2008. Among new renewables (excluding large hydropower), wind power was the largest addition to renewable energy capacity. Existing wind power capacity grew by 29 percent in 2008 to reach 121 gigawatts (GW), more than double the 48 GW that existed in 2004. The 2008 increase was led by high growth in the strongest markets of the United States (8.4 GW added), China (6.3 GW), India (1.8 GW), and Germany (1.7 GW).

Many milestones were reached in 2008. The United States overtook long-time wind power leader Germany, ending the year with 25 GW compared to Germany’s 24 GW. China’s total wind power doubled for the fifth year in a row, ending the year above 12 GW and breaching China’s 2010 development target of 10 GW two years early. More than 80 countries around the world had commercial wind power installations by 2008, with Mongolia and Pakistan being two of the most recent entrants to this group.

Three sub-Saharan African countries had commercial wind power installations, but projects were under development in others, including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Existing offshore wind capacity reached nearly 1.5 GW in 2008, virtually all of it in Europe, with 200 megawatts (MW) added in 2007 and 360 MW added in 2008. The United Kingdom became the offshore wind power leader in 2008.

In the wind power industry, China experienced the greatest changes in 2008, with several new companies producing turbines and many new component manufacturers. The industry appeared poised to start exporting turbines and had achieved a high level of domestic sourcing for most components. By the end of 2008, at least 15 Chinese companies were commercially producing turbines and several dozen more were producing components. (The industry reportedly grew to more than 70 manufacturing companies.)

Turbine sizes of 1.5 MW and 2 MW became common. Leading producers were Goldwind, Dongfang, and Sinovel. China also increased production of small-scale wind turbines, to about 80,000 turbines (80 MW) in 2008. Through all these developments, the Chinese wind industry appeared entirely unaffected by the global financial crisis, according to industry observers, and some expected manufacturing capacity to approach 20 GW per year by 2010.

New wind turbine manufacturing facilities opened in several other countries during 2008, notably in the United States, where the share of domestically made components rose from 30 percent in 2005 to 50 percent in 2007. During 2008, 27 wind turbine and component manufacturing facilities came online or were expanded, and plans for an additional 30 facilities were announced.

And companies in at least two other developing countries, Egypt and Turkey, started to manufacture megawatt-scale wind turbines for the first time. In 2008, the top 10 wind turbine manufacturers globally were (in order of production): Vestas (Denmark), GE Wind (USA), Gamesa (Spain), Enercon (Germany), Suzlon (India), Siemens (Denmark), Sinovel (China), Acciona (Spain), Goldwind (China), and Nordex (Germany). These top 10 were responsible for 85 percent of global production in 2008. The industry continued to push turbine sizes upward, with turbines models of 3 MW or larger now in commercial use (made by Enercon, Repower, Siemens, Vestas, and WinWind).


* Grid-connected solar PV continued to be the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 70 percent increase in existing capacity to reach 13 GW.
* Spain became the PV market leader, with 2.6 GW of new grid-tied installations.
* The concentrating solar power industry saw many new entrants and new manufacturing facilities in 2008
* Solar hot water in Germany set record growth in 2008, with over 200,000 systems installed.

Grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) continued to be the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 70-percent increase in existing capacity to 13 GW in 2008. This represents a sixfold increase in global capacity since 2004. Annual installations of grid-tied solar PV reached an estimated 5.4 GW in 2008. Spain became the clear market leader, with 2.6 GW of new capacity installed, representing half of global installations and a fivefold increase over the 550 MW added in Spain in 2007.

Spain’s unprecedented surge surpassed former PV leader Germany, which installed 1.5 GW in 2008. Other leading markets in 2008 were the United States (310 MW added), South Korea (200–270 MW), Japan (240 MW), and Italy (200–300 MW). Markets in Australia, Canada, China, France, and India also continued to grow. The beginnings of growing grid-tied solar PV markets emerged in several countries in 2007/2008, notably China. Including off-grid applications, total PV existing worldwide in 2008 increased to more than 16 GW.

Solar PV markets showed three clear trends in 2008. The first was the growing attention to building-integrated PV (BIPV), which is a small but fast-growing segment of some markets, with more than 25 MW installed in Europe. Second, thin-film solar PV technologies became a larger share of total installations. And third, utility-scale solar PV power plants (defined as larger than 200 kilowatts, kW) emerged in large numbers in 2008.

By the end of 2008, an estimated 1,800 such plants existed worldwide, up from 1,000 at the end of 2007. Altogether, these plants totaled over 3 GW, a tripling of existing capacity from 2007. The majority of utility-scale plants added in 2008 were installed in Spain (over 1.9 GW added), with others in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, and Portugal. The Spanish 60-MW Olmedilla de Alarcon plant, completed in 2008, became the largest solar PV plant in the world. New utility-scale plants are planned and under development in many countries of Europe and throughout the world, including China, India, Japan, and the United States.

The solar PV industry continued to be one of the world’s fastest growing industries. Global annual production increased nearly sixfold between 2004 and 2008, reaching 6.9 GW. Annual production in 2008 was 90 percent higher than in 2007. China usurped Japan to become the new world leader in PV cell production (1.8 GW not counting Taiwan), with Germany moving up to second place (1.3 GW), followed by Japan (1.2 GW), Taiwan (0.9 GW), and the United States (0.4 GW). Although the United States ranked fifth overall, it led the world in thin-film production (270 MW), followed by Malaysia (240 MW) and Germany (220 MW). Global thin-film production increased 120 percent in 2008, to reach 950 MW.

Two new concentrating solar (thermal) power plants (CSP) came online in 2008—the 50 MW Andasol-1 plant in Spain and a 5 MW demonstration plant in California—following three new plants during 2006/2007. A number of additional projects were due to come online in 2009, including two more 50 MW plants and 20 MW of CSP integrated with a 450 MW natural-gas combined-cycle plant in Morocco (which would be the first operational plant of this type).

The pipeline of projects under development or construction increased dramatically during 2008, to more than 8 GW by some estimates, with over 6 GW under development in the United States alone. New projects are under contract in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico in the United States and under development in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. A growing number of these future CSP plants will include thermal storage to allow operation into the evening hours. For example, the Andasol-1 plant in Spain has more than seven hours of full-load thermal storage capability, and a 280 MW plant is planned in Arizona with six hours storage.

The concentrating solar (thermal) power (CSP) industry saw many new entrants and new manufacturing facilities in 2008. Active project developers grew to include Ausra, Bright Source Energy, eSolar, FPL Energy, Infinia, Sopergy, and Stirling Energy Systems in the United States; Abengoa Solar, Acciona, Iberdrola Renovables, and Sener in Spain; and Solar Millennium in Germany. Ausra also opened a manufacturing facility in the U.S. state of Nevada that will begin to produce 700 MW per year of CSP components by mid-2009. Schott Solar of Germany opened a manufacturing plant in Spain and is constructing a similar plant in New Mexico to make receiver tubes. Rio Glass Solar opened a manufacturing plant in Spain for trough mirrors, and Flabeg of Germany announced plans to build a parabolic mirror factory in the United States.


* Geothermal power capacity surpassed 10 GW in 2008, led by the United States.
* Direct geothermal energy (ground source heat pumps) is now used in at least 76 countries.

Geothermal power capacity reached over 10 GW in 2008. The United States remains the world development leader, with more than 120 projects under development in early 2009, representing at least 5 GW. Other countries with significant recent growth in geothermal include Australia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iceland, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, and Turkey. Geothermal development was under way in over 40 countries, with at least 3 GW in the pipeline beyond the United States.


* By August 2008, at least 160 publicly traded renewable energy companies worldwide had a market capitalization greater than $100 million.
* India emerged in 2008 as a major producer of solar PV, with new policies leading to $18 billion in new manufacturing investment plans or proposals by a number of companies.


* Among the many new renewable energy targets set in 2008, Australia targetted 45 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity by 2020. Brazil’s energy plan sought to slightly increase through 2030 its existing share of primary energy from renewable energy (46 percent in 2007), and its electricity share (87 percent in 2007). India increased its target to 14 GW of new renewables capacity by 2012. Japan set new targets for 14 GW of solar PV by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030. The EU formally adopted its target to reach a 20 percent share of renewable energy in final consumption by 2020, setting also country-specific targets for all member states.
* At least 64 countries now have some type of policy to promote renewable power generation.
* Feed-in tariffs were adopted at the national level in at least five countries for the first time in 2008/early 2009, including Kenya, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, and Ukraine.
* Several hundred cities and local governments around the world are actively planning or implementing renewable energy policies and planning frameworks linked to carbon dioxide emissions reduction.