Renewable Power Generation - 2010 figures

David Hopwood

Special report. Part one: how much renewable electricity capacity was installed worldwide at the end of 2010, and which technologies were the most popular?

About the article: This special Renewable Energy Focus power generation focus previews REMIPEG's latest update, carried out in the first four months of 2011 by Lahmeyer International, and presents an overview for each renewable power sector, based on scenarios up to the end of 2010.

This article is taken from the July/August issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine. For a free subscription, click here. Further information on the Tables and Data in this article can be viewed by opening the pdf version of this article via the 'downloads' opposite.

Part one - introduction

Renewable energy continues to increase its share of primary energy supply worldwide. This trend continued in 2010. Up to the end of 2010, 1,348 GW of renewable power capacity had been installed around the world, giving an estimated annual power generation of between 4,447 and 4,571 TWh (source - REMIPEG, see below).

When it comes to electricity from the different renewable electricity sectors, the German company Lahmeyer International has tracked the implementation of renewable electricity capacity around the world since 2007, with Renewable Energy Focus magazine publishing the results in a single report each year.

Lahmeyer's research – Renewable Energy Market, Installed Power and Annual Electricity Generation (REMIPEG) – examines installed power capacities for renewable energy generation in individual countries, as well as globally. It includes estimates of the country-specific average annual power generation for each energy source.

The data is based on public information from various organisations active in the different renewable energy markets, and expert information from consultants in the field. And despite lingering economic problems in many countries and some high-profile incentive schemes being curtailed, renewable energy continues to have a growing impact on the global energy markets. But the challenges remain.

In some markets, renewable energy projects continue to suffer from the fallout of the financial crisis. This tends to be the case in emerging markets, and the markets where solid policies i.e. feed-in tariffs (FiTs) and regulatory frameworks have not been fully established, or where incentive schemes are not long term (and hence investor confidence is curtailed). One prominent example of this is the U.S., where newly-installed wind capacity in 2010 was only half that coming on stream in 2009, partly due to the uncertainty surrounding Federal policies.

By contrast, in other markets that have a clear renewable energy support strategy, renewable capacity was the most important growth driver within the power market as a whole; in these countries, Government policies outweighed the lingering effects of the financial crisis.

The nuclear debate continues to dominate – particularly in the mainstream media – and in light of the Japanese tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. On the one hand, some countries such as Germany, Italy (and Japan) have curtailed their own programmes, promising to invest more in renewable energy. But on the flip side, some well known environmental commentators have thrown their weight behind nuclear power, arguing that going forward we “can't do without nuclear”.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this debate, there is now a growing awareness that the benefits of renewable energy are not solely connected to the environment. The industrial and social impacts – employment, income creation etc - play an important role in the various national programmes that foster renewable energies. Trailblazer Germany is a shining example: According to the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU), around 370,000 jobs had been generated in the renewable energy industry (directly and indirectly) by the end of 2010. This is something that many other countries now aspire to.

Asian Power behemoths drive world electricity demand outlook

Globally, the demand for electricity will escalate between 2010 and 2030, especially in the developing regions, due to a growing middle class, and rapid urbanisation. As the spending power of the people in these regions rises, so will their uptake of electric appliances.

Analysis from Frost & Sullivan (Annual Global Power Generation Forecasts 2011), finds that electricity generation will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.7% through to 2020, with the growth rate declining to 1.8% per annum over the subsequent decade as growth in the emerging markets is reduced and energy-efficiency measures begin to have a greater impact.

Over the next two decades, the combined share of demand for electricity from the developed regions of the European Union (EU); North America; and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Asia Pacific (OECD-APAC) will drop from 49.6% to 37.5 %. The bulk of demand is expected to come from India and China, with the combined share of these two countries alone rising from 23.6% in 2010 to 34.5% in 2030.

“China and India's role and future impact are most prominent in the area of coal-fired power generation, where they accounted for 43.8% of the world total in 2010, and this is forecast to rise to 57% by 2030,” says Frost & Sullivan's Industry Director for Power Generation, Harald Thaler.

“Both countries are also very strong in hydro and wind power generation, with China expanding in hydro, and India in wind power.”

Renewable energy is expected to be widely adopted, as Governments aim to curb fossil fuel emissions, partly in order to comply with international agreements on climate change and partly to support new industries in the field of the green economy.

All fuel sources, apart from oil, will expand, but coal will remain the dominant source, still accounting for nearly 28 per cent of installed capacity and over 34% of electricity generation in 2030.

“China and India are both expected to see strong growth in renewable energy and nuclear power as they aim to diversify away from fossil-fired generation,” observes Thaler. “The highest non-fossil electricity generation growth, however, will be in the Middle East and Africa, where solar power developments, in particular, will receive increased attention.”

In part two: Hydropower remains top of the renewable electricity league table.


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