Wind power continues to drive global renewable energy growth

The REN21 Renewables 2011 Global Status Report released in Paris also showed that the renewable energy sector continues to perform well despite continuing economic recession, incentive cuts, and low natural-gas prices.

“The global performance of renewable energy despite headwinds has been a positive constant in turbulent times,” Mohamed El-Ashry, Chairman of REN21’s Steering Committee,” said in an accompanying press release.

“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.”

Commissioned by REN21, the 116-page report found that renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity. “Including all hydropower (estimated 30 GW added in 2010), RE accounted for approximately 50% of total added power generating capacity in 2010,” the press release noted.

Globally, wind farm added the most new capacity (followed by hydropower and solar power photovoltaic), the press release said, adding feed-in tariffs and other renewable energy policies continue to be the main driver behind renewable energy growth.

“By early 2011, at least 119 countries had some type of policy target or renewable support policy at the national level, more than doubling from 55 countries in early 2005,” the press release said.

Investment reached a record €150 billion in renewables last year — about one-third more than invested in 2009, and more than five times the amount invested in 2004, the press release added.

The report said that new wind turbines capacity added during 2010 reached 39 GW, more than any other renewable technology and over three times the 11.5 GW of wind added world-wide just five years earlier.

“As a result, existing capacity increased more than 24% relative to 2009, with total global capacity nearing 198 GW by year’s end,” the report said, adding at least 52 countries increased their total existing capacity during 2010.

The report also found that total existing wind power capacity by the end of 2010 was enough to meet an estimated 2.0–2.5% of global electricity consumption.

This week’s report follows one released in late March that showed wind power was the preferred technology for investments in the global clean energy sector last year, attracting €67 billion.

“Wind investment levels increased by 34% in 2010, and wind energy remains the leading recipient of clean energy investments,” according to the March report, titled ‘Who’s winning the Clean Energy Race?’

Published by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the March report found that, collectively, the European region was the leading recipient of clean energy finance, attracting a total of €66 billion.

By Chris Rose,