Wind energy drives global renewable energy growth

The REN21 Global Status Report released shows that renewable energy continues its strong performance despite continuing economic turmoil, cuts in incentives and subsidies and low natural gas prices. The growth of wind power in particular continues to drive renewable energy development, but other sectors such as solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar power are also seeing strong investment.

“Wind turbines continues to lead the renewable electricity sector, with more new capacity installed in 2010 than for any other technology,” said Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General and Member of the REN21 Steering Committee. “Equally important to note is that in 2010 for the first time, more wind power was added in developing countries and emerging markets than in the industrialised world.”

According to the report, trends for wind power include continued offshore wind farm development, the growing popularity of community-based wind turbines projects and distributed, small-scale grid-connected wind turbines, and the development of wind farm projects in a wider variety of geographical locations. Average wind turbine sizes continued to increase in 2010, with some manufacturers launching 5 MW and larger wind turbines, and direct-drive wind turbine designs captured 18% of the global market.

In 2010, renewable energy supplied an estimated 16% of global final energy consumption and delivered close to 20% of global electricity production. Renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity. Including all hydropower (estimated 30 GW added in 2010), renewable energy accounted for approximately 50% of total added power generating capacity in 2010.

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

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. More than half of these countries are in the developing world.

At least 95 countries now have some type of policy to support renewable power generation. Of all the policies employed by governments, feed-in tariffs remain the most common.

Last year, investment reached a record $211 billion in renewables — about one-third more than the $160 billion invested in 2009, and more than five times the amount invested in 2004.

The report was commissioned by REN21 and produced in collaboration with a global network of research partners.