Report sees renewable energy moving into mainstream

14 May 2004 - With oil and gas prices soaring amid deepening instability in the Middle East, renewable energy is emerging as a bright spot in the global energy economy-and is poised for a worldwide takeoff. According to a new study from the Worldwatch Institute, solar power generation has more than tripled globally in the past five years, and wind power generation has nearly quadrupled.

"Political will and the right mix of policies-not vast resource potential-have made wind and solar power the world's fastest growing energy sources over the past decade," says Worldwatch research associate Janet Sawin, author of Mainstreaming Renewable Energy in the 21st Century. In Germany, Japan, Spain, and a handful of other countries, clear government commitments to renewable energy have overcome barriers and created the demand for these technologies that has led to dramatic growth, while advancing renewable technologies and driving down their costs.

With a fraction of the U.S. potential in wind power, Germany has more than twice as much installed wind capacity and is a world leader in solar and other renewables as well. And Japan, which has far less sunshine than California, uses and manufactures more solar cells than any other country.

"The experiences of Germany and Japan hint at the great potential for renewables in the United States, which is both geographically large and resource-rich," says Sawin. "The technologies are ready-what we need is strong political leadership to vault renewables into the mainstream."

Already, new renewables-including wind, solar, geothermal, and modern bio energy-supply enough electricity for more than 300 million homes worldwide. In 2003, an estimated $20.3bn-about one-sixth of total global investment in power generation equipment-was invested in new renewables. Within the next decade, this is expected to approach $85bn annually. The growth rates of some renewables are closer to those of computers than the single-digit growth rates of today's energy economies. "Some people dismiss this rapid growth rate in an industry they consider tiny, but this thinking is short-sighted and mirrors the attitude of IBM toward Microsoft in the early 1980s," says Sawin.

The impressive growth potential of renewables is attracting big league corporate investors. Japan's Sharp Corporation produces 27 percent of the world's solar cells, while General Electric is now a world leader in the global wind business-two years after acquiring a dynamic young wind company.

Renewables have proved they can meet the energy needs of industrial and developing countries alike, and are offering real solutions to a world facing accelerating global energy demand and rising concerns about energy supplies and environmental impacts. In China, where lights have been going out in major cities because power supplies are not keeping up with exploding demand, renewables have the potential to provide clean energy from domestic sources and diversify China's energy economy. Recognition of these advantages has led the Chinese government to consider an ambitious new renewables policy.

The global transition to a new energy system will require significant upfront investments to develop new technologies and to bring costs down. But over the long term it will provide benefits like improved global air and water quality, increased security of energy supply, new jobs, and a reduced threat of climate change, which a U.S. Pentagon report has identified as a security threat.

Recent surges in gasoline prices have reminded motorists of another kind of insecurity that is inherent in our heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Those fuels, which continue to benefit from an array of government subsidies, also carry a range of hidden costs in the form of damage to human health and natural ecosystems.

Around the world, a growing number of nations have recognized the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy, and are enacting tax breaks and other policy measures to partially offset the advantages enjoyed by fossil fuels. Among the nations where policy changes may allow dynamic new renewable energy markets to emerge in the next five years are Brazil, China, and India.

In another sign of coming change, nearly 90 nations have formally committed to increasing their share of energy derived from renewable resources by joining the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition, which rose out of the energy debate at the World Summit in 2002.

As part of this effort the German government will host Renewables 2004 in June 2004-officially called the International Conference on Renewable Energies- in Bonn. This historic event will be attended by thousands of scientists, engineers, business executives, non-governmental leaders, and government officials, and is expected to accelerate the technological and economic momentum that is already taking energy sources like wind, solar, and bio-power into the heart of the world's energy systems.

According to the report's author, Janet Sawin, the last decade of rapid policy development has provided a blueprint for a portfolio of integrated policies with the proven ability to get renewable energy off the ground, allowing new dynamic markets to emerge. The greatest growth in renewables has occurred in a handful of countries-Germany, Japan, Denmark, and Spain-and a number of U.S. states including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Texas, and California. Among the key elements of a strong renewable energy policy the report points to:

* Access to the market must be ensured. Governments must provide renewables with ready access to energy grids at prices that reflect full costs of conventional energy and provide sufficient incentive to stimulate renewable energy market growth;

* Financial incentives (including tax credits, rebates, payments, and low-interest loans) are also important for encouraging investment in renewables by reducing investors' risk and compensating for high capital costs;

* Education and information dissemination are essential for informing potential leaders, investors, and customers about the potential of renewables, the state of technologies, and available government incentives, as well as to dispel myths;

* Public participation and ownership in the renewables development process increase political support and the likelihood of success;

* Clear industry standards and siting regulations help prevent inferior hardware from entering the marketplace, thereby increasing investor and customer confidence while addressing potential sources of opposition such as noise and visual impacts.

"Policies must be sustained and consistent to avoid boom-and-bust cycles that shake investor confidence and inhibit the development of strong domestic industries," Sawin concludes. "Those countries that stay the course will end up not only with a more efficient and cleaner energy system but will reap economic rewards in the form of new industries and jobs."

View full report: www.worldwatch.org/press/prerelease/wwp169embargoed.pdf)

Sponsored by FLSmidth

Related Articles

Study: Mexico could install 12,000 MW of wind capacity by 2020

Total installed wind power capacity in Mexico will reach some 12,000 MW by 2020, or 15 percent of the country’s electricity mix.

AES plans solar energy project to power copper mines in Chile

AES Gener SA plans to build a $572 million solar farm in northern Chile as it seeks to boost electricity supply to copper miners in the Atacama Desert.

Follow Power Engineering on Twitter
Latest News
Rhode Island natural gas-fueled power plant

Chicago firm to build clean energy facility in Rhode Island

A Chicago-based company that plans to build an energy facility in Rhode Island says it will c...
States to fight EPA carbon emissions rule

Nebraska to join other states challenging new EPA rules

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson says the state will join others in a legal fight agai...
Hydropower tops power generation share in Canada over next decade

Hydropower tops power generating sources in Canada, report says

Hydropower will continue to be the dominant power generation source in Canada over the next t...
Mitsubishi Hitachi group launches precipitator unit

Mitsubishi Hitachi companies launch emissions control unit

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd. (MHPS), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Mechatronics System...
China US nuclear deal passes congressional review

US-China nuclear agreement passes congressional review

An agreement allowing American involvement in China's civilian atomic industry is set to be r...
NRC special inspection at Honeywell uranium hexafluoride leak

NRC begins special inspection at uranium enrichment facility

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) launched a special inspection at a uranium conve...
House GOP says they have votes against Iran nuclear deal

House GOP says it has the votes to disapprove of Iran deal

House Republicans said Monday that they have the GOP votes to disapprove of the Iran nuclear ...
Winners and losers in Clean Power Plan Associated Press

Who wins and loses under Obama's stricter power plant limits

President Barack Obama is mandating even steeper greenhouse gas cuts from U.S. power plants t...

Power Engineering Current Issue

01/01/2015
Volume 119, Issue 1
1501pe-cover-lg
Products Showcase
Dynamic Fluoride Ion cleaning DFIC of industrial natural gas turbines Hi-Tech Furnace Systems

Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning of IGT Parts

The Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning (DFIC) Process from Hi-Tech Furnace Systems is able to clean deep, narrow cracks of oxides by cycling between negative, atmospheric, and positive pressure.

Archived Articles

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

Power Industry Wire News

Obama Unveils Final Clean Power Plan, but Will It Survive Court Challenge? -- an Industrial Info News Alert

Obama Unveils Final Clean Power Plan, but Will It Survive Court Challenge? -- an Indust...

BREEAM Approves SCS Indoor Advantage Gold Certification Program for Indoor Air Quality Credits

BREEAM Approves SCS Indoor Advantage Gold Certification Program for Indoor Air Quality ...

China's Power Consumption, Natural Gas Output Rise in First Half of 2015, While Coal, Steel Tumble -- an Industrial Info News Alert

China's Power Consumption, Natural Gas Output Rise in First Half of 2015, While Coal, S...

Emerald Oil Reports Second Quarter 2015 Financial and Operational Results, Guidance Increase, Credit Facility and Term Loan Facility Update

Emerald Oil Reports Second Quarter 2015 Financial and Operational Results, Guidance Inc...

EnerCom, Inc. to Host 100+ E&P, Oilfield Service and MLP Companies at the Oil & Gas Conference(R) 20; Conference Dates Are August 16-20, 2015

EnerCom, Inc. to Host 100+ E&P, Oilfield Service and MLP Companies at the Oil & Gas Con...

Power Engineering

Article Archives for Power Engineering Magazine

Continuing Education

Professional Development Hours

To access a course listing associated to a specific topic listed below, click on the topic of choice from the list below.

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>