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Renewable Energy Accelerates Meteoric Rise

2007 Global Status Report Shows Perceptions Lag Reality

Washington, D.C. - The renewable energy industry is stepping up its meteoric rise into the mainstream of the energy sector, according to the REN21 Renewables 2007 Global Status Report. Renewable energy production capacities are growing rapidly as a result of more countries enacting far-reaching policies.

Prepared by the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) (www.ren21.net) in collaboration with the Worldwatch Institute (www.worldwatch.org), the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report paints an encouraging picture of rapidly expanding renewable energy markets, policies, industries, and rural applications around the world. In 2007, global wind generating capacity is estimated to have increased 28 percent, while grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity rose 52 percent.

"So much has happened in the renewable energy sector during the past five years that the perceptions of some politicians and energy-sector analysts lag far behind the reality of where the renewables industry is today," says Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of REN21.

Renowned researcher Dr. Eric Martinot led an international team of 140 researchers and contributors from both developed and developing countries to produce the report. He says renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and small-scale hydropower offer countries the means to improve their energy security and spur economic development.

Citing the report, Martinot says the renewable energy sector now accounts for 2.4 million jobs globally, and has doubled electric generating capacity since 2004, to 240 gigawatts. More than 65 countries now have national goals for accelerating the use of renewable energy and are enacting far-reaching policies to meet those goals. Multilateral agencies and private investors alike are integrating renewable energy into their mainstream portfolios, capturing the interest of the largest global companies.

Worldwatch President Chris Flavin says the report shows that renewable energy is poised to make a significant contribution to meeting energy needs and reducing the growth in carbon dioxide emissions in the years immediately ahead. "The science is telling us we need to substantially reduce emissions now, but this will only happen with even stronger policies to accelerate the growth of clean energy," he says.

El-Ashry emphasizes that many of the trends described in the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report are the result of leadership and actions launched since the major renewable energy conference held in Bonn, Germany, in 2004. "This leadership has never been more important, as renewable energy has now reached the top of the international policy agenda under the United Nations and the G8," said El-Ashry.

Commenting on the dramatic rise of renewables, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "The findings come in the wake of UNEP's annual gathering of environment ministers in Monaco last week. It is clear from ministers in Monaco and from reports like REN21 that we are beginning to see elements of an emerging Green Economy, fueled by the existing climate change agreements and the prospect of even deeper and more decisive emissions reductions post 2012."

The Renewables 2007 Global Status Report is being released ahead of the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC), taking place March 4?6 in Washington, D.C. WIREC will be the third such international conference following those in Bonn in 2004 and Beijing in 2005.

Notes to Editors:

Download an advance copy of the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report (for media only): http://www.ren21.net/pdf/RE2007_Global_Status_Report.pdf

or http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/renewables2007.pdf.

For interviews: To interview the report contributors, contact Darcey Rakestraw, Worldwatch Institute, at +1-202-452-1992 x517, drakestraw@worldwatch.org, or Paul Suding, REN21 Secretariat, +33-144375091, paul.suding@ren21.net.

WIREC 2008: During WIREC 2008, a special side event will be held to present the Renewables 2007 report on Tuesday, March 4, from 12:30?14:00 in the Washington Conference Center.

About REN21: REN21 is a global policy network including members from governments and international organizations, civil society, and industry from the energy, environment, and development sectors. REN21's goal is to bolster policy development for the rapid expansion of renewable energy in developing and industrialised economies. German development enterprise GTZ and the United Nations Environment Programme are partners in the network's secretariat. For more information, visit www.ren21.net.

About Worldwatch: The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in more than 20 languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

REN21 Renewables 2007 Global Status Report: Highlights

? Renewable electricity generation capacity reached an estimated 240 gigawatts (GW) worldwide in 2007, an increase of 50 percent over 2004. Renewable energy represents 5 percent of global power capacity and 3.4 percent of global power generation. New renewable energy (not counting large hydropower) generated as much electric power worldwide in 2006 as one-quarter of the world's nuclear power plants. Large hydropower itself accounted for 15 percent of global power generation.

? The largest component of the renewable power capacity increase was wind power, which grew again by over 25 percent worldwide in 2007, to reach an estimated 95 GW.

? The fastest growing energy technology in the world is grid-connected solar photovoltaics (PV), with 50 percent annual increases in cumulative installed capacity in both 2006 and 2007, to an estimated 7.7 GW. This translates into 1.5 million homes with rooftop solar PV feeding into the grid worldwide. Another estimated 2.7 GW of stand-alone systems brings global PV capacity to over 10 GW.

? Rooftop solar heat collectors provide hot water to nearly 50 million households worldwide, and space heating to a growing number of homes. Existing solar hot water/heating capacity increased by 19 percent in 2006 to reach 105 gigawatts-thermal globally.

? Biomass and geothermal energy are commonly used for both power and heating, with recent increases in a number of countries, including uses for district heating. More than 2 million ground-source heat pumps are used in 30 countries for heating and cooling of buildings.

? Production of biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) exceeded an estimated 53 billion liters in 2007, up 43 percent from 2005. Ethanol production in 2007 represented about four percent of the 1,300 billion liters of gasoline consumed globally. Annual biodiesel production increased by more than 50 percent in 2006.

? Renewable energy, especially small hydropower, biomass, and solar PV, provides electricity, heat, motive power, and water pumping for tens of millions of people in rural areas of developing countries, serving agriculture, small industry, homes, schools, and community needs. Twenty-five million households cook and light their homes with biogas, and 2.5 million households use solar lighting systems.

? Developing countries as a group have more than 40 percent of existing renewable power capacity, more than 70 percent of existing solar hot water capacity, and 45 percent of biofuel production.

? Investment reached an estimated $71 billion in new renewable power, fuel, and heat production assets worldwide in 2007 (excluding large hydropower), of which 47 percent was for wind power and 30 percent was for solar PV. Investment in large hydropower represented an additional $15?20 billion.

? Investment flows became more diversified and mainstreamed during 2006/2007, including those from major commercial and investment banks, venture capital and private equity investors, multilateral and bilateral development organizations, and smaller local financiers. The renewable energy industry saw many new companies, huge increases in company valuations, and many initial public offerings. Just counting the 140 highest-valued publicly traded renewable energy companies yields a combined market capitalization of more than $100 billion. Companies also broadened expansion into emerging markets. Major industry growth is occurring in a number of emerging commercial technologies, including thin-film solar PV, concentrating solar thermal power generation, and advanced/second generation biofuels (with first-ever commercial plants completed in 2007 or under construction).

? Jobs worldwide from renewable energy manufacturing, operations, and maintenance exceeded 2.4 million in 2006, including some 1.1 million for biofuels production.

? Policy targets for renewable energy exist in at least 66 countries worldwide, including all 27 European Union countries, 29 U.S. states (and D.C.), and 9 Canadian provinces. Most targets are for shares of electricity production, primary energy, and/or final energy by a future year. Most targets aim for the 2010?2012 timeframe, although an increasing number of targets aim for 2020.

? There is now an EU-wide target of 20 percent of final energy by 2020, and a Chinese target of 15 percent of primary energy by 2020. In addition to China, several other developing countries adopted or upgraded targets during 2006/2007.

? In addition, targets for biofuels as future shares of transport energy now exist in several countries, including an EU-wide target of 10 percent by 2020.

? Policies to promote renewable energy have mushroomed in recent years. At least 60 countries-37 developed and transition countries and 23 developing countries-have some type of policy to promote renewable power generation. The most common policy is the feed-in law. By 2007, at least 37 countries and 9 states/provinces had adopted feed-in policies, more than half of which have been enacted since 2002.

? Strong momentum for feed-in tariffs continues around the world as countries enact new feed-in policies or revise existing ones. At least 44 states, provinces, and countries have enacted renewable portfolio standards (RPS), also called renewable obligations or quota policies. There are many other forms of policy support for renewable power generation, including capital investment subsidies or rebates, tax incentives and credits, sales tax and value-added tax exemptions, energy production payments or tax credits, net metering, public investment or financing, and public competitive bidding.




Further Resources

REN21 Renewables 2007 Global Status Report (PDF 479 KB)

Presentation slides (PDF 280 KB)


Worldwatch Institute

UNEP Energy Branch

UNEP Year Book 2008

Climate Neutral Network (CN Net)


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