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Beijing Conference Shows Renewable Energy Booming Worldwide

BEIJING, China, November 7, 2005 (ENS) - The fastest growing energy technology in the world is grid-connected solar photovoltaic, which grew in capacity by 60 percent per year from 2000 through 2004, to cover more than 400,000 roofs in Japan, Germany, and the United States, according to a Worldwatch Institute report released today at the Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference.

Second is wind power capacity, which grew by 28 percent last year, led by Germany, with almost 17 gigawatts installed as of 2004, the report finds.

"Renewable energy has become big business," said Eric Martinot, lead author of "Renewables 2005: Global Status Report." The report was compiled by Martinot, working with more than 100 researchers and contributors from at least 20 countries as a project of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

The report was produced and published by the Worldwatch Institute and released at the Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference 2005, sponsored by the government of China.

At the conference today, Chinese President Hu Jintao called on the international community to improve cooperation in research and development, technological transfer and funding for the use of renewable resources to benefit the world.

turbine

A new wind farm, located 60 miles outside Beijing, will generate 400 megawatts per day by October 2006, enough to power up to 400,000 households when running at full capacity, nearly doubling China's wind power. For now, it claims to be the world's largest wind power project, but rivals from Scotland to Texas also make that claim. (Photo courtesy EHP)
The state news agency Xinhua quoted Hu as telling conference delegates that giving priority to the exploitation and use of renewable energy is the only way for the world to deal with the growing energy and environmental problems, and the only way for humankind to achieve sustainable development.

Chinese Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan told the conference that China will develop its water resources, build wind power plants capable of generating a million kilowatts each, pay more attention to the use of solar energy, and methane in rural areas, and promote the biological energy sector. By 2010, renewable energy will account for 15 percent of China's energy supplies, said the vice-premier.

Xinhua quoted Vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhang Guobao as saying the Chinese government will raise about US$180 billion to develop renewable energy from now to 2020.

The conference gathers government and private leaders from around the world, providing a forum for international leadership on renewable energy. It reconnects the stakeholders that came together at the International Conference for Renewable Energies in Bonn, Germany in 2004.

Martinot, who is a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute and a lecturer at Tsinghua University in Beijing, notes that renewable energy is attracting some of the world's largest companies, including General Electric, Siemens, and Sharp.

Global investment in renewable energy set a new record of $30 billion in 2004, Martinot and his team report.

By design, the report does not provide analysis, recommendations, or conclusions. It provides an assessment of small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels, energy sources that are now competing with fossil fuels and nuclear power in four distinct markets - power generation, hot water and space heating, transportation fuels, and rural off-grid energy supplies.

Technologies such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and small hydro now provide 160 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity, about four percent of the world total. Developing countries have 44 percent of this capacity.

This 160 gigawatt slice of generating capacity compares to 3,800 gigawatts installed capacity worldwide for all power generation.

The report finds that government leadership provides the key to market success and that government support for renewable energy is growing rapidly.

At least 48 countries now have some type of renewable energy promotion policy, including 14 developing countries. Most targets are for shares of electricity production, typically five to 30 percent, by the 2010 - 2012 timeframe.

Legislation requiring the blending of biofuels into vehicle fuels have been enacted in at least 20 states and provinces worldwide as well as in three populous developing countries - Brazil, China and India.

solar

High efficiency solar photovoltaic modules are installed at the Center for Art and Media Technology building in Karlsruhe, Germany. The array can produce 90,000 kilowatt hours per year. (Photo courtesy BP Solarex)
The market leaders in renewable energy in 2004 were Brazil in biofuels, China in solar hot water, Germany in solar electricity, and Spain in wind power.

In total, renewable energy industries worldwide provide 1.7 million jobs, most of them skilled and well-paying.

Over 4.5 million green power consumers in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan purchased renewable electricity at the retail level or via certificates in 2004.

The report estimates that nearly 40 million households worldwide heat their water with solar collectors, most of them installed in the last five years.

Sixteen million households cook and light their homes with biogas, and two million households use solar lighting systems.

Production of the biofuels ethanol and biodiesel exceeded 33 billion liters in 2004, when ethanol displaced about three percent of the 1.2 trillion liters of gasoline produced globally.

Interest in using renewable energy technologies to provide electricity to rural and remote areas as a cost-effective alternative to grid extension is gathering momentum in many developing countries, the report finds. An estimated 360 million households worldwide still lack access to to central electric power networks.

“All our client countries in Latin America have told us that they have realized that they need subsidies and regulatory measures for reaching the ‘last 20 percent’ of their rural unelectrified populations, including with renewable energy,” said a World Bank project manager quoted in the report.

Brazil plans to electrify 2.5 million households by 2008 under the “Luz para Todos” program, and about 700,000 households have already been electrified. Brazil has targeted 200,000, or about 10 percent of these households for renewable energy.

Several other Latin American countries have recently launched or revamped new rural electrification programs, including Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. Most of these countries have launched efforts to “mainstream” renewable energy as a standard option of new rural electrification efforts. The report finds that Chile has recently recognized renewables as a key technology as it enters a second phase of a national rural electrification program.

Thailand

Solar photovoltaic panel begins powering a water pump in rural Thailand (Photo courtesy United Solar Ovonic)
Asian countries with mandates for renewable energy for rural electrification include Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. Some of these countries are financing programs with multilateral assistance, and conducting other technical assistance and support measures.

The report estimates that US$500 million goes to developing countries each year as assistance for renewable energy projects, training, and market support. The German Development Finance Group, the World Bank Group, and the Global Environment Facility provide the majority of these funds, and dozens of other donors and programs provide the rest.

REN21 is a global policy network aimed at providing a forum for international leadership on renewable energy. Its goal is to allow the rapid expansion of renewable energies in developing and industrial countries by bolstering policy development and decision making on sub-national, national, and international levels.

The establishment of a global policy network was embraced in the Political Declaration of the International Conference for Renewable Energies, Bonn 2004, called Renewables 2004, and formally launched in Copenhagen in June 2005.

The REN21 Steering Committee brings together government officials from Brazil, China, Denmark, the European Commission, Germany, India, Morocco, Netherlands, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States with nongovernmental leaders such as Greenpeace, the Worldwatch Institute, WWF, and the African Energy Policy Research Network.

Multilateral agencies are represented on the Steering Committee by the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Energy Agency among others. Funding agencies are represented by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. Industry associations include the World Wind Energy Association, and the Renewable Energy Councils from Europe and the United States.

WorldWatch says the Global Status Report fills a gap in the international energy reporting arena, which has tended to neglect the emerging renewable energy technologies. Regular updates will be produced in the future.



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