UPDATED: Report points to promising growth in renewables

Global energy consumption rebounded in 2010 after a downturn in 2009, but in its latest report, the Renewable Energy Policy Network is tipping strong growth in all renewable sectors in coming years.

According to theRenewables Global Status Report renewable energy made up a quarter of global power capacity in early 2011. Renewables didn't experience a downturn but continued to grow strongly in power, heat and transport.

Between 2005 and 2010, the report says, solar, wind and biofuels underwent impressive growth, at rates from 15 to nearly 50 percent annually. Wind power added the most new capacity followed by hydro, as the cost of wind turbines and biofuel processing technologies fell.

Brendan Winitana, chairman of the Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand, says small-scale renewables have a big part to play in our energy future.

“Our industry is vibrant and forecasting revenue growth of more than 170% in the next five years.  We are building capability, launching an accreditation programme and an NZQA qualification later this year ahead of an expected surge in employee numbers."

According to the organisation, 60 percent of industry revenue is earned domestically, and is forecast to rise to 72 percent in five years. Solar photo voltaic (PV), otherwise known as solar panels, dominate domestic and export sales, with small amounts of wind and small scale hydro generation.

“The domestic market has the greatest potential,” says Winitana, “but there is also good opportunity over the long term in markets such as the Pacific Islands, which have a heavy reliance on diesel generators, and Australia which relies largely on coal fired electricity.”

He says the future of electricity generation is moving from a large scale centralised model to one that is complemented by small distributed generation and expects a similar picture in New Zealand.

Global trends

According to the report, all up there are 3.5 million direct jobs in renewable energy industries, about half of which are in biofuels.

State-owned banks are driving development, with more public money going to renewables through development banks than through government stimulus packages in 2010.

At least 118 countries now have some type of policy target or renewable policy at the national level, up from 55 in 2005.

Developing countries represent half of these and are playing an increasingly important role in advancing renewable energy, according to the report.

In 2010, China was the top installer of wind turbines and solar thermal systems, as well as the top hydropower. Meanwhile, Brazil produced almost all global sugar-derived ethanol.

Manufacturing leadership also continues to shift from Europe to Asia as countries like China, India and South Korea increase their commitments to renewable energy. 

China leads in solar hot water/heating and wind capacity; Germany in solar PV; and the US leads in capacity for geothermal and biomass. Including hydro, China leads in renewable energy capacity overall.


For the first time the majority of new wind power capacity was added in developing markets, driven primarily by China. Trends include offshore development, community-based projects and small-scale grid-connected turbines


Solar photovoltaics more than doubled in 2010, dominated by the EU, particularly Italy and Germany.


Concentrated solar thermal power rebounded and is moving beyond the US to the MENA region.


Europe's market shrank but is still second only to China. There's a trend in Europe toward larger combined systems that provide both water and space heating.


The market is expanding in Europe, as well as US, China and India. 


After years as a net importer, the US overtook Brazil as the leading ethanol exporter. The diversity of players in the advanced biofuels market is on the up as oil prices increase.


Development slowed in 2010 but heat output from geothermal sources increased by an average of 9 percent annually in the past decade. Use of geothermal for combined heat and power is on the rise.


Asia and Latin America are leading new development.


At least 25 countries are involved in ocean energy development.

(Click here for an interactive map charting renewable energy around the world.)

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).