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23 June 2012

Solar power has bright future

Image: Mike Bassett-Smith, director at PowerSmart

ITRAT BASHIR
 

Solar generation surged past wind power to become the renewable energy technology of choice for global investors in 2011. Solar attracted nearly twice as much investment as wind, driving the renewable energy sector to yet another record-breaking year, albeit one beset with challenges for the industry, says two reports on renewable energy trends.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) issued the reports. 'Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012' is the fifth edition of the UNEP report based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and has become the standard reference for global clean energy investment figures.

It states that despite an increasingly tough competitive landscape for manufacturers, total investment in renewable power and fuels in 2011 increased by 17 percent to a record $257 billion, a six-fold increase on the 2004 figure. The increase was 94 percent higher than the total in 2007, the year before the world financial crisis, it said. "Although last year's 17 percent increase was significantly smaller than the 37 percent growth recorded in 2010, it was achieved at a time of rapidly falling prices for renewable energy equipment and severe pressure on fiscal budgets in the developed world," it observed.

The REN21 Renewables 2012 Global Status Report, which has become the most frequently referenced report on renewable energy market, industry and policy developments, notes that during 2011, renewables continued to grow strongly in all end-use sectors (power, heating and cooling and transport). Renewable sources have grown to supply 16.7 percent of global energy consumption; of that, the share provided by traditional biomass has declined slightly while the share sourced from modern renewable technologies has risen.

According to this report, in 2011, renewable energy technologies continued to expand into new markets: around 50 countries installed wind power capacity, and solar photovaoltaic capacity moved rapidly into new regions and countries. Solar hot water collectors are used by more than 200 million households as well as in many public and commercial buildings worldwide.

The reports revealed that renewable technologies are expanding into new markets. In 2011, around 50 countries installed wind capacity. Solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is rapidly moving into new regions and countries and interest in geothermal power has taken hold in East Africa's Rift Valley and elsewhere. Interest in solar heating and cooling is on the rise in countries around the world and the use of modern biomass for energy purposes is expanding in all regions of the globe.

"In the power sector, renewables accounted for almost half of the estimated 208 gigawatts (GW) of electric capacity added globally during the year. Wind and solar (PV) accounted for almost 40 percent and 30 percent of new renewable capacity, respectively, followed by hydropower (nearly 25 percent). By the end of 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide exceeded 1,360GW, up 8 percent over 2010; renewables comprised more than 25 percent of total global power-generating capacity (estimated at 5,360GW in 2011) and supplied an estimated 20.3 percent of global electricity," it added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2012

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