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Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels second year in a row

Renewable energy topped fossil fuels and nuclear for the second year in a row in the USA and Europe in 2009, according to the Global Wind Energy Association (GWEC).

Renewable energy accounted for 60% of new capacity installed in Europe and over 50% of new capacity in the USA in 2009.

Renewable energy represented 25% of global electricity capacity in 2009 with 1230 GW of the total 4.8 TW. Renewable energy also accounted for 18% of global power production.

“The world as a whole should reach 50% or more in newly installed power capacity from renewables in 2010 or 2010,” GWEC says.

Core energy investment down, wind up

Investment in core clean energy (new renewables, biofuels and energy efficiency) decreased 7% in 2009 to US$162 billion.

In terms of money invested, several sub-sectors decline significantly – including utility-scale solar and biofuels.

“Investment totals in utility-scale solar PV declined relative to 2008, partly as 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,” GWEC explains.

Wind power, however, saw record investment, GWEC adds.

“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.”

80 GW of new capacity

Globally, 80 GW of new renewable energy capacity was installed in 2009: 31 GW of hydropower and 48 GW of non-hydropower.

Wind power saw 38 GW of new installations and solar PV 7 GW of new installations globally.

Renewable energy investment pays off

Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General and REN21 Steering Committee Member, says: “In the face of ongoing economic difficulties, the renewable energy sector is experiencing considerable growth.

“This shows that renewable energy, and particularly wind energy, is increasingly becoming the technology of choice in many parts of the world, not only for environmental, but also for economic reasons.

“Many governments have caught on to these benefits, putting renewable energy development at the centre of their economic stimulus packages, and these efforts are bearing fruit.”

Over the last years the number of countries with renewable energy policies have almost doubled from 55 in 2005 to more than 100 in 2009 – half of them in the developing world.

Chinese renewable energy investment up

In China, new private and public sector investment in core clean energy increased 53% in 2009, and the country added 37 GW of new renewable energy capacity.

This means China surpassed USA for investment in clean energy in 2009.

The findings have been taken from the twin reports Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment in 2010 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Renewables 2010 Global Status Report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Green building  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wind power