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Renewable Power Generation - 2011 figures

edited by Gail Rajgor

Special report. Part one: how much renewable electricity capacity was installed worldwide at the end of 2011, 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 2012 by Lahmeyer International, and presents an overview for each renewable power sector, based on scenarios up to the end of 2011.

This article is taken from the July/August 2012 issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine. For a free subscription, click here.

Part one - introduction (see below).

Part two - hydropower (out soon).

Part one - introduction

In the face of economic turmoil in the Eurozone, policy rethinks across the globe, and rising energy prices resulting from political instability in some key oil states, the renewable energy sector generally had a solid year, but for one technology 2011 was a stand-out year. The question is, can it continue unabated in the face of major change?

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

While it was a year of new records regarding new capacity coming online for some, 2011 was a tricky year for the renewable energy industry in many ways. With countless countries reviewing energy policy and subsidy support programmes, or applying already planned feed-in tariff (FIT) cuts, investor confidence took something of a hit.

Political impacts

There was a noticeable fall in new installations in line with FiT reductions throughout the year in fact. This was especially so in Europe where finance issues caused by subsidy reductions were further compounded by the Eurozone financial crisis, creating adverse conditions for project and technology development.

Add to this the impact of instability in the Middle East and resulting increases in global energy prices – something which usually works in the favour of renewables but not on this occasion – the result was many projects being delayed, put on hold, or cancelled altogether.

On the face of it the sector looked relatively buoyant. With 117GW of new capacity installed worldwide in 2011, up from just under 100GW last year, cumulative installed renewable energy capacity increased around 8% from 1348GW at end 2010 to 1460GW by end 2011.

However, the 2011 new capacity figures largely reflect installations constructed in 2010 but not connected to the grid until 2011, a phenomenon directly caused by planned changes to FITs announced in 2010.

The sector's electricity output for the year is estimated to be 4272-4476TWh. This means renewable energy accounted for around 19.5% of the global electricity market (calculated assuming a 5% increase in 2011 on 2010's total electricity output from all sources of 21,325TWh. Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, July 2011). This is slightly down on 2010 when renewables contributed 21-22% to the overall power generation mix.

Germany remained the leading market in terms of renewable energy use generally and tops the table in Europe still for installed wind and photovoltaics (PV) capacity. Wind energy accounted for 8% of the electricity mix, biomass 5%, hydro 3%, PV 3%, and waste 1%, meaning the share of renewable technologies in the country's electricity supply mix reached 20% in 2011.

Globally, while hydro continues to top the table in terms of cumulative capacity – accounting for 73% of the total installed renewables capacity and 76% of the electricity generated from the sector – it was one of the least performing technologies last year in terms of growth rates (see table below and page 34for full details). Rather, wind, solar PV and the ocean/tidal sectors were the headliners for the year.

Star performers

  • Adding nearly 42GW to its overall total, the wind power sector topped the table for new installations, increasing its cumulative total by 22% to 241GW. However, while better than hydro's performance, with new installations up just 6% on the previous 2010, it was another year of moderate growth for wind.
  • For solar it was a mixed story. The PV sector stole the renewable energy show by a mile, adding some 27.5GW in 2011 to its world total and registering an impressive 66-67% growth rate for both new installations and cumulative capacity ( see page 38). On the flipside, after an annual growth rate of 210% in 2010, new capacity additions for concentrated solar power fell 21.6% with just 0.4GW installed for the year.
  • The largest rate of growth came for the ocean and tidal energy sector, as the table indicates. However, this was largely due to the commissioning of one tidal barrage project. Still, while remaining a small market when compared to other renewables, the sector did make some major headway last year with a number of projects now under construction or planned for development and some big name utilities forming joint ventures or acquiring technology firms.
  • Meantime, use of biomass technology continues spreading, with the sector's total power capacity standing at 68GW by end 2011. Electricity production from biomass in 2011 was significant, estimated to be between 273TWh and 477TWh – it is difficult to exactly calculate because not all biomass that can be used for electricity generation is eventually used for that purpose, although its mix in global electricity supply has increased significantly in the last two years and continues to rise.
  • Finally, 2011 was a dire year for geothermal in terms of new plant coming online. With less than 300MW installed for the year, new additions were down 43% on last year, while cumulative capacity was up less than 3%.
  • However, the non-intermittent nature of this source means it has a greater capacity factor than other technologies, generating larger amounts of electricity in relation to its installed nameplate capacity than other sources. In 2011, geothermal electricity output was 67.2TWh.

The REMIPEG databank

With its Renewable Electricity Market, Installed Power and Annual Electricity Generation (REMIPEG), German engineering firm Lahmeyer International has tracked the implementation of renewable electricity capacity around the world since 2008, updating its database annually, with Renewable Energy Focus then publishing the year-end results.

Providing totals for newly installed plant, cumulative capacity, and estimated electricity generation output, country-by-country, for each renewable energy generation source. the databank is compiled using publicly available information along with expert information from consultants in the field.

Edited by Gail Rajgor

About the authors

  • Dr. Andreas Wiese is Executive Director and shareholding partner at Lahmeyer International Gmbh
  • Dr. Patric Kleineidam is Head of Wind Energy (Lahmeyer)
  • Kuno Schallenberg is Head of Renewable Energies (Lahmeyer)
  • Raya Che Peterson is Project Manager, Wind Energy (Lahmeyer)
  • Thorsten Gunkel is Project Manager, Geothermal (Lahmeyer)
  • Camilo Varas is Project Manager, Solar Power (Lahmeyer)
  • Holger Zebner is Project Manager, Solar (Lahmeyer)
  • Florian Remnan is Project Manager, CSP (Lahmeyer)
  • Luis Tellez is an intern (Lahmeyer)
  • Professor Dr. Martin Kaltschmitt is Head of the Institute of Energy and Process Engineering at the TU Hamburg-Harburg

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Geothermal  •  Green building  •  Other marine energy and hydropower  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wave and tidal energy  •  Wind power  •  World Future Energy Summit