Renewable Energy Industry Hot in Latest Global Status Report

WASHINGTON, DC, February 27, 2008 (ENS) – The renewable energy industry is rising from obscurity into the mainstream of the energy sector, the latest global assessment reveals, although public perception of the industry has not kept pace with the reality.

The renewable energy sector now accounts for 2.4 million jobs globally, and has doubled electric generating capacity since 2004, to 240 gigawatts, according to the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report released today.

The status report was prepared by REN21, formally known as the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century, a global policy network which is headquartered in Paris, France – in collaboration with the Washington, DC-based research organization Worldwatch Institute, which works on energy, resource, and environmental issues.

New renewable energy generated as much electric power worldwide in 2006 as one-quarter of the world’s nuclear power plants, the report states.

“So much has happened in the renewable energy sector during the past five years that the perceptions of some politicians and energy-sector analysts lag far behind the reality of where the renewables industry is today,” says REN21 Chairman Mohamed El-Ashry, who formerly headed the Global Environment Facility, an international funding agency.

Bill Ball, president of the Stellar
Sun Shop in Little Rock, Arkansas,
catches some rays atop PV
shingles on the roof of his shop.
(Photo courtesy Stellar Sun Shop)

The fastest growing energy technology in the world is grid-connected solar photovoltaics, PV, with 50 percent annual increases in cumulative installed capacity in both 2006 and 2007, to an estimated 7.7 gigawatts.

This translates into 1.5 million homes with rooftop solar cells feeding into the grid worldwide. Another estimated 2.7 gigawatts of stand-alone systems brings global solar photovoltaic capacity to over 10 gigawatts.

Biofuels production has zoomed ahead since 2005, the report shows, up 43 percent to an estimated 53 billion liters of ethanol and biodiesel produced in 2007.

Ethanol production in 2007 represented about four percent of the 1,300 billion liters of gasoline consumed globally, and annual biodiesel production increased by more than 50 percent in 2006.

Worldwatch President Chris Flavin says the report shows that renewable energy is poised to make a contribution to meeting energy needs and reducing the growth in carbon dioxide emissions in the years immediately ahead.

“The science is telling us we need to substantially reduce emissions now, but this will only happen with even stronger policies to accelerate the growth of clean energy,” Flavin says.

Investment reached an estimated $71 billion in new renewable power, fuel, and heat production assets worldwide in 2007, the status report shows.

Wind farm on the southwest coast of Denmark (Photo courtesy Sandia National Lab)

Of the $71 billion – 47 percent was invested in wind power and 30 percent was for solar PV. Investment in large hydropower represented an additional $15 to 20 billion.

El-Ashry emphasizes that many of the trends described in the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report are the result of leadership and actions launched since the major renewable energy conference held in Bonn, Germany in 2004.

“This leadership has never been more important, as renewable energy has now reached the top of the international policy agenda under the United Nations and the G8,” said El-Ashry.

Policy targets for renewable energy exist in at least 66 countries worldwide, including all 27 European Union countries, 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and nine Canadian provinces.

Most targets are for shares of electricity production, primary energy, and/or final energy by a future year. Most targets aim for the 2010-2012 timeframe, although an increasing number of targets aim for 2020.

There is now an EU-wide target of 20 percent of final energy by 2020, and a Chinese target of 15 percent of primary energy by 2020. In addition to China, several other developing countries adopted or upgraded targets during 2006-2007.

In addition, targets for biofuels as future shares of transport energy now exist in several countries, including an EU-wide target of 10 percent by 2020.

To compile these and many other facts and figures, researcher Dr. Eric Martinot of Worldwatch Institute and Tsinghua University, led an international team of 140 researchers and contributors from both developed and developing countries.

They calculate that developing countries as a group have more than 40 percent of the total existing renewable power capacity, more than 70 percent of existing solar hot water capacity, and 45 percent of biofuel production.

Martinot says renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and small-scale hydropower offer countries the means to improve their energy security and spur economic development.

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