The report further states that renewables accounted for roughly half of the 194GW of electricity generation capacity added in 2010. While this was led by wind power and hydropower, the organization notes that Europe added more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than wind energy.
“The global performance of renewable energy despite headwinds has been a positive constant in turbulent times,” says REN21 Steering Committee Chairman Mohamed El-Ashry.
“Today, more people than ever before derive energy from renewables as capacity continues to grow, prices continue to fall, and shares of global energy from renewable energy continue to increase.”
"Extraordinary" PV growth in 2010
The report notes that the PV industry had an "extraordinary" year in 2010, with an estimated 17GW of capacity added globally, more than double the 7.3GW added in 2009. Additionally, PV capacity was added in more than 100 nations during the year.
REN21 credits government incentive programs and the continued fall in PV module prices for these developments, which brings total global capacity to around 40GW in 2010, more than seven times the 2005 capacity.
The report also notes the trend towards utility-scale PV plants, estimating that more than 5,000 have built globally and account for more than 25% of total global PV capacity.
Finally, the report notes that the PV industry has responded to declining prices and changing market conditions by consolidation, increasing production scales, and moving into project development.
Concentrated solar energy grows despite price pressure from PV
REN21 notes that the concentrating solar power (CSP) industry also has expanded rapidly, even amid pressure from falling PV costs. The report records more than 740 MW of solar thermal capacity added between 2007 and 2010, with more than half of that amount installed during 2010.
The organization also states that project development is moving beyond the Spain and the United States, noting the industry’s growth in the Middle East and North Africa region. Parabolic trough PV plants remained the most popular Concentrating Solar Power technology.
Solar heating grows by 25 GW-th
According to the report, global solar heating capacity increased 16% during 2010 to reach 185 GW-thermal, excluding unglazed swimming pool heating.
China continues to lead the world in solar thermal installations, with the European market contracting during 2010, which the organization blames on the global recession.
Policy drives renewable energy growth
The report affirms that policy continues to be the main driver behind renewable energy growth, and that in 2010, 119 nations had a policy goal or renewable energy support policy. This is more than double the 55 nations that had done so by 2005.
Significantly, more than half of these countries are in the developing world. The organization states that developing nations now possess more than half of total global renewable energy capacity.
REN 21 records 95 nations with some form of policy support, with feed-in tariffs remaining the most popular policy. Reacting to a new global report by the Renewable Energy Network (REN21) on the growth of renewable energy in 2010 to supply 16% of the world’s energy needs, Sven Teske, Renewable Energy Expert for Greenpeace International said:
“The continuing rise of renewable energy is good news for the global economy, energy equity and the climate, and shows that, despite the global recession, real world growth in renewables was just 7% behind the predictions of Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution. Moreover, the REN21 findings show that global ambition for a world powered by renewable energy is not only desirable, it is also achievable.”
The REN 21 report illustrates how investment in renewable energy leapt by a third last year to $211 billion dollars, a five-fold increase on 2004. Renewable energy policies continued to be a major driver for growth, and have doubled since 2005, to over 110 in early 2011.
“Renewable energy is proving itself to be a safe bet for investors, and continues to see substantial growth, even in the face of global recession and price wars over oil scarcity”, said Teske. “However, governments must not be complacent: the transition to a green economy can only be achieved with the support of policies that favour renewable energy.”
The world’s top two biggest carbon emitters, the US and China, are conversely leading the field in renewable energy installation, according to the REN 21 report.
“Investment in renewable energy should not simply be seen as an alternative to making the huge strides needed to phase out fossil fuels and reduce global emissions, when we are still at a tipping point in the battle to stop runaway climate change. Both developed and developing countries still have a long way to go in ending subsidies for climate polluters and to fully embrace a clean, secure renewable energy future.”