A series of reports from Reuters news agency tonight highlighted rapid growth in Renewable Energy worldwide.
Timed to coincide with the launch of the 2005 Renewable Energy conference in Beijing (http://www.birec2005.cn/), the reports covered global investment in renewable energy as well as highlighting China’s leading role in wind power and solar panel manufacturing.
Global investment in renewable energy hit a record $30 billion last year, accounting for 20-25 percent of all investment in the power industry, and with solar power the fastest-growing energy technology, a Worldwatch Institute report released on Sunday said.
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The Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based organization working for environmental sustainability, said the renewables sector was growing as a result of government support and increasing private sector investment.
(UPDATE 8th November: Energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions will soar by more than 50 percent by 2030 if consumers keep burning oil unchecked, the IEA said in its World Energy Outlook. To keep pace with booming demand over the next 25 years, top producer Saudi Arabia and its neighbours would have to spend an annual $56 billion on rigs and refineries or oil prices will race higher, said the IEA, adviser to 26 industrialised nations.)
“Policies to promote renewables have mushroomed over the past few years. At least 48 countries worldwide now have some type of renewable energy promotion policy, including 14 developing countries,” the report said.
Most countries with renewable energy policies are targeting 5 to 30 percent of their electricity production by 2012, the end of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
Kyoto requires developed nations to cut their emissions of heat-trapping gases by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012, but the United States and Australia did not ratify the pact and developing countries, including China and India, are exempt from the emissions caps.
Nonetheless, China, which has a goal of making renewable energy account for one-tenth of its power grid by 2020, is a world leader in existing renewable electricity capacity, with 37 gigawatts, followed by Germany, the United States, Spain and Japan.
It also plays host on Monday to the two-day international conference on renewable energy.
“The fact the conference is taking place here in Beijing confirms taking up renewable energy is no longer the sole purview of developed countries and the emerging countries also wish to play a leading role in this area,” European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas told a news conference.
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He said the conference would discuss how to enhance international frameworks for developing and transferring renewable technologies and developing market-based mechanisms that can provide affordable renewable energy sources.
Asia is seen as an especially fertile market for renewable energy as it grapples with growing demand for power to feed rapid economic expansion at the same time as global oil prices are rising.
Solar photovoltaic capacity globally grew by 60 percent per year between 2000 and 2004, making it the fastest-growing energy technology in the world, with solar power in about 400,000 homes in leaders Japan, Germany and the U.S. feeding power into the grid.
Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight into electricity through a process known as the photovoltaic effect.
Costs are also declining as technologies improve and the scale of production grows.
“Solar and wind power costs are now half what they were 10-15 years ago. Many renewable technologies can compete with retail and even wholesale prices of conventional technology under good conditions,” the Worldwatch report said.
Production of biofuels, which are made from agricultural products ranging from sugarcane and wheat to waste oil from cooking, exceeded 33 billion litres in 2004, or about 3 percent of the gasoline consumed globally.
Wind energy can become China’s third major power supply by 2020, with an expected installed wind turbine capacity of 40 million kilowatts, said an industrial report released on Sunday.
The capacity figure doubles that in a governmental plan in 2004.
The report, jointly released on the eve of the Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference by the China Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA), Greenpeace and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said the capacity can satisfy the power demand of 80 million people with an estimated production of 80 billion kwh.
It can also help reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 48 million tons annually in the country, said the report named “Wind Force 12 in China”.
“Wind Force 12” is an annual blue book on the global development of wind power published by EWEA and Greenpeace. The blueprint said that the growth of wind energy will supply 12 percent of the world’s power demand by 2020.
But coal, mega-size hydro-power and nuclear power currently comprise the three major power supplies in China. and that’s not going to change any time soon.
The governmental goal for the development of wind energy as an alternative power supply is to reach an installed capacity of 20 million kilowatts by 2020.
The government, however, is considering lifting the goal, said Wu Guihui, deputy director of the energy resources bureau of the State Development and Reform Commission.
Wu said that the commission has proposed, in its new plan for wind power development in the next 15 years, to raise the figure to 30 million kilowatts, but this is roughly in line with the required rise in other forms pof power to cope with China’s staggering economic growth.
With 43 wind power stations, China had an installed capacity of only 760,000 kilowatts by the end of 2004. But the report said that the country is seeing rapid growth in this sector. The installed capacity rose 16.4, 21.1 and 34.7 percent annually in the previous three years.
The report also predicted that wind energy can take the place of hydro power and become the second major power supply by 2050 when its installed capacity is expected to reach 400 million kilowatts.
The implementation of the Law on Renewable Resources, which is scheduled to start on January 1, 2006, is expected to offer great momentum for the development of the country’s wind power industry,said Greenpeace campaigner Yu Jie.
The growth of wind power in China, however, may be hindered by the high cost of the industry, as the country’s wind power equipment depends on import at present, said Wu.
Nevertheless, he said, the industry will gain substantial progress in China under the context of the country’s endeavor in building an energy-saving, environmentally friendly society.
Wu said that the country supports wind energy technology development of domestic enterprises, while at the same time it welcomes investments from foreign technology.
He said that the huge Chinese market of the wind power industry is attractive to foreign investors.
EWEA chairman Arthouros Zervos said that his association and its Chinese partner CREIA are making efforts in pushing forward the development of wind power in China, and he hopes, as the report predicted, wind energy as an alternative power supply can have a bright future in the country.