Global Investments in Renewable Energy Top Non-renewables for 2nd Year

For the second year
in a row, both the US and Europe added more power capacity from
renewable sources such as wind and solar than from conventional
sources like coal, gas and nuclear, according to twin reports
launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme and the
Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

Renewables accounted for 60 per cent of newly installed capacity
in Europe and more than 50 per cent in the USA in 2009. This year
or next, experts predict, the world as a whole will add more
capacity to the electricity supply from renewable than
non-renewable sources.

The reports detail trends in the global green energy sector,
including which sources attracted the greatest attention from
investors and governments in different world regions.

Investment in core clean energy (new renewables, biofuels and
energy efficiency) decreased by 7% in 2009 to the value of $162
billion. Many sub-sectors declined significantly in money invested,
including large (utility) scale solar power and biofuels.

However, there was record investment in wind power. If spending
on solar water heaters, as well as total installation costs for
rooftop solar PV, were included, total investment in 2009 actually
increased in 2009, bucking the economic trend.

New private and public sector investments in core clean energy
leapt 53 per cent in China in 2009. China added 37 gigawatts (GW)
of renewable power capacity, more than any other country.

Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable
power capacity was added, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of
non-hydro capacity

China surpassed the US in 2009 as the country with the greatest
investment in clean energy. China’s wind farm development was the
strongest investment feature of the year by far, although there
were other areas of strength worldwide in 2009, notably North Sea
offshore wind investment and the financing of power storage and
electric vehicle technology companies.

Wind power and solar PV additions reached a record high of 38 GW
and 7 GW, respectively. Investment totals in utility-scale solar PV
declined relative to 2008, partly a result of large drops in the
costs of solar PV. However, this decline was offset by record
investment in small-scale (rooftop) solar PV projects.

The reports also show that countries with policies encouraging
renewable energy have roughly doubled from 55 in 2005 to more than
100 today - half of them in the developing world - and have played
a critically important role in the sector’s rapid growth.

The sister reports, UNEP’s Global Trends in Sustainable Energy
Investment 2010 and the REN21’s Renewables 2010 Global Status
Report, were released by UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner,
UNEP’s Executive Director, and Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of REN21.
The UNEP report was prepared by London-based Bloomberg New Energy
Finance. The REN21 report was produced by a team of authors in
collaboration with a global network of research partners.

The UNEP report focuses on the global trends in sustainable
energy investment, covering both the renewable energy and energy
efficiency sectors. The REN21 report offers a broad look at the
status of renewable energy worldwide today, covering power
regeneration, heating and cooling and transport fuels, and paints
the landscape of policies and targets introduced around the world
to promote renewable energy.

Achim Steiner said: “The sustainable energy investment story of
2009 was one of resilience, frustration and determination.
Resilience to the financial downturn that was hitting all sectors
of the global economy and frustration that, while the UN climate
convention meeting in Copenhagen was not the big breakdown that
might have occurred, neither was it the big breakthrough so many
had hoped for.”

“Yet there was determination on the part of many industry actors
and governments, especially in rapidly developing economies, to
transform the financial and economic crisis into an opportunity for
greener growth,” he added.

“There remains, however, a serious gap between the ambition and
the science in terms of where the world needs to be in 2020 to
avoid dangerous climate change. But what this five years of
research underlines is that this gap is not unbridgeable. Indeed,
renewable energy is consistently and persistently bucking the
trends and can play its part in realizing a low carbon, resource
efficient Green Economy if government policy sends ever harder
market signals to investors,” he added.

Mohamed El-Ashry said, “Favorable policies now in place in more
than 100 countries have played a critical role in the strength of
global renewable energy investments recently. For the upward trend
of renewable energy growth to continue, policy efforts now need to
be taken to the next level and encourage a massive scale up of
renewable technologies.”

Says Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy
Finance: “The relatively resilient performance of the sector during
the current economic downturn shows that clean energy was not a
bubble created by the late stages of the credit boom, but is
instead an investment theme that will remain important for the
years ahead.”

By the numbers:

In 2009 renewable sources represented:

• 25 per cent of global power
(electricity) capacity (1,230 gigawatts (GW) out of 4,800 GW total
all sources, including coal, gas, nuclear)

• 18 per cent of global power production

• 60 per cent of newly installed power capacity in Europe and
more than 50 per cent in the US; the world as a whole should reach
50 per cent or more in newly-installed power capacity from
renewables in 2010 or 2011

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