Yesterday, the Worldwatch Institute joined Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (or REN21), and a panel of energy experts to celebrate the launch of Renewables 2011 Global Status Report, an integrated analysis of the state of renewable energy around the world. First published in 2005, REN21’s annual report has since become the most heavily cited analysis of renewable energy business and policy.
According to Alexander Ochs, event moderator and Director of Climate and Energy at the Worldwatch Institute, renewable energy today already accounts for about 25 percent of total global power capacity and 20 percent of actual electricity production, percentages that continue to grow quickly. Over the five-year period from the end of 2005 through 2010, total capacity of many technologies including wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass grew at rates averaging 15 - 50 percent per year. Total global capacity of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2010 was up as much as 72 percent from just the year before. Little noticed, approximately half of the estimated 194 gigawatts (GW) of new power capacity that was added globally in 2010 were renewables.
Renewable energy is on the rise around the world: today, 118 countries have renewable energy policies in place at the national level, up from just 55 in 2005. Remarkably, new financial investment in renewable energy in developing countries surpassed that in developed economies for the first time in 2010.
While Ochs emphasized the increasingly global nature of the renewable energy landscape, there was one country whose recent accomplishments outpace the others. In 2010, China was the leading installer of wind turbines and solar thermal systems, and was also the top hydropower producer. The country added an estimated 29 GW of grid-connected renewable capacity, an increase of 12 percent over 2009. China also attracted more new investment than any other country in 2010 – nearly $50 billion. This made it the leader for the second year in a row, followed by Germany ($41 billion), the US ($30 billion), Italy ($14 billion) and Brazil ($7 billion).
Although national governments around the world are stepping up their commitment to developing clean-energy economies, shifting our focus back to within our own borders, Ochs said, local governments play an important role in spearheading green technology. “Even if we saw comprehensive climate and energy legislation fail in Congress,” noted Ochs, “we do see an array of states and municipalities that are stepping to the plate and providing targets and implementing policies that advance the renewable energy sector.”
Representative Holt, the only current physicist in Congress and a member of the Committee on Natural Resources, called on the U.S. to catch up to the rest of the world in the development of renewable energy. “This report highlights what we in the policy field need to do,” he said. “We’re watching the rest of the world eat our lunch.”
Representative Markey, the Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources, spoke of the resistance to renewable energy among certain members of Congress.
“Renewable energies are still a misunderstood component of the global economy,” he said. “This isn’t to say that clean energy sources such as solar power aren’t enjoying their day in the sun. Indeed, for every new nuclear power plant built this year, four times as much solar energy was deployed. But thanks to the large sums of money lobbyists from major oil and coal corporations spend,” he said, “much of the public – and their representatives – remain misinformed about the “global green revolution” that’s taking place around the world.”
Markey, too, drew comparisons to China. “They have a plan, and we need one too,” he said. “We can’t trade our addiction to foreign oil with an addiction to Chinese batteries.”
The event concluded with brief remarks from the other members of the panel, including Dale Madaris of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Scott Sklar of the Stella Group, Paul Suding of REN21, and James Bradbury of the World Resources Institute.
You can find Alexander Ochs’ presentation of the report here Ochs REN21 Presentation
Click here to access the Renewables 2011 Global Status Report.