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Renewable energy supplies 19 percent of global final energy consumption, counting traditional biomass, large hydro power, and “new” renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels).
Renewable Energy Share of Global Energy Consumption
Of this 19 percent, traditional biomass, used primarily for cooking and heating, accounts for approximately 13 percent and is growing slowly or even declining in some regions as biomass is used more efficiently or is replaced by more modern energy forms. Hydropower represents 3.2 percent and is growing modestly but from a large base. Other renewables account for 2.6 percent and are growing very rapidly in developed countries and in some developing countries. Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct markets: power generation, hot water and space heating, transport fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services.
Global renewable energy capacity grew at rates of 10–60 percent annually for many technologies during the five year period from the end of 2004 through 2009. For many renewable technologies, such as wind power, growth accelerated in 2009 relative to the previous four years. More wind power capacity was added during 2009 than any other renewable technology. Grid connected solar photovoltaic (PV), however, increased the fastest of all renewables technologies, with a 60-percent annual average growth rate for the five-year period. Biofuels also grew rapidly, at a 20-percent annual average rate for ethanol and a 51-percent annual average for biodiesel (reflecting its lower production levels), although growth rates began declining later in the period. Other technologies—including hydropower, biomass power and heat, and geothermal power—are growing at more ordinary rates of 3–6 percent, making them comparable with global growth rates for fossil fuels (3–5 percent, although higher in some developing countries). In several countries, however, the growth in these other renewables technologies far exceeds the global average.
Trends include new growth in off shore development, the growing popularity of distributed, smallscale grid-connected turbines, and new wind projects in a much wider variety of geographical locations around the world and within countries. Firms continue to increase average turbine sizes and improve technologies, such as with gearless designs.
Despite the global economic crisis, new wind power capacity installations in 2009 reached a record high of 38 GW. This represented a 41-percent increase over 2008 and brought the global total to 159 GW.Over the five-year period end-2004 to 2009, annual growth rates for cumulative wind power capacity averaged 27 percent. The capacity installed in 2009 is equivalent to nearly a quarter of total global installations, and cumulative capacity has doubled in less than three years.
The industry has been responding to price declines and rapidly changing market conditions by consolidating, scaling up, and moving into project development. Thin-film PV has experienced a rapidly growing market share in recent years, reaching 25 percent. A growing of number of solar PV plants are so-called “utilityscale” plants 200-kW and larger, which now account for one-quarter of total grid-connected solar PV capacity.
Solar PV generates electricity in well over 100 countries and continues to be the fastest growing power-generation technology in the world. Between 2004 and 2009, grid-connected PV capacity increased at an annual average rate of 60 percent. An estimated 7 GW of grid-tied capacity was added in 2009, increasing the existing total by 53 percent to some 21 GW (off-grid PV accounts for an additional 3–4 GW). This was the largest volume of solar PV ever added in one year and came despite a precipitous decline in the Spanish market relative to 2008. Solar PV accounted for about 16 percent of all new electric power capacity additions in Europe in 2009.
Biomass power plants exist in over 50 countries around the world and supply a growing share of electricity. Several European countries are expanding their total share of power from biomass, including Austria (7 percent), Finland (20 percent), and Germany (5 percent). Biogas for power generation is also a growing trend in several countries.
Biomass, derived from forestry, agricultural, and municipal residues as well as from a small share of crops grown specifically as fuel, is available in solid (e.g., straw or wood chips), liquid (e.g., egetable oils and animal slurries that can be converted to biogas), and gaseous (biogas) forms. It is commonly used to generate both power and heat, generally through combustion, and some biomass can be converted to biofuels for transport. Biogas, a byproduct of fermenting solid and liquid biomass, can be converted by a combustion engine to heat, power, and transport.
The use of biogas to generate electricity is on the rise as well, with production increasing an estimated 7 percent during 2008.Biogas is used for electricity generation mainly in OECD countries, with some 30TWh produced in the OECD in 2008.But a number of developing countries also produce electricity with biogas, including Thailand, which nearly doubled its capacity in 2009 to 51 MW, and Malaysia, which is also seeing significant biogas power expansion.
Germany passed the United States in biogas-generated electricity in 2007 and remained the largest producer in 2009; it is also the world’s largest generator of electricity from liquid biomass, at 2.9 TWh in 2007.The number of German biogas plants increased by 570 in 2009, to nearly 4,700, and associated capacity rose by 280 MW to 1.7 GW; total domestic production was an estimated 9–12 TWh of electricity. In 2008, the most recent year for which data are available, the United States generated some 7 TWh with biogas, followed by the United Kingdom at 6 TWh and Italy at 2 TWh.
By the end of 2009, geothermal power plants operated in 24 countries and totaled approximately 10.7 GW of capacity, generating more than 67 TWh of electricity annually. Nearly 88 percent of that capacity is located in seven countries: the United States (3,150 MW), the Philippines (2,030 MW), Indonesia (1,200MW), Mexico (960 MW), Italy (840MW), New Zealand (630 MW), and Iceland (at 580 MW, the leader on a per capita basis). Iceland generates about 25% of its electricity with geothermal power, and the Philippines approximately 18%.
Geothermal resources provide energy in the form of direct heat and electricity. Since 2004, significant additions of electric capacity have occurred in Indonesia, Iceland, New Zealand, the United States, and Turkey, with Turkey and Iceland each experiencing growth of more than 200 percent. Global capacity has increased 1.8 GW since 2004. During 2009, the United States saw six new plants come on line—increasing domestic capacity by an estimated 181 MW, or 6 percent— followed by Indonesia (137 MW), Turkey (47 MW), and Italy (40 MW), for a total of at least 405 MW added. While this was less than the 456 MW added in 2008, it was considerably larger than the 2007 market of 315 MW. In addition, in the U.S. states of Louisiana and Mississippi, two projects were initiated to generate geothermal power with hot water produced by oil and gas wells.
Ocean energy technologies for generating electricity include wave, tidal (barrages and turbines), and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems. No commercial OTEC plants are currently in operation. The 240 MW La Rance tidal barrage began generating power off the French coast in 1966, but ocean energy saw little further development for decades. Today, a handful of modern commercial projects are generating power, and numerous other projects are in development or under contract, from the coast of Ireland to Australia. An estimated 6MW is operational or being tested in European waters (off the coasts of Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom), with additional projects off the shores of Canada, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and elsewhere.At least 25 countries are involved in ocean energy development activities.
A 2.5 MW commercial wave plant was installed in Portuguese waters in 2008, with plans to expand total capacity up to 250 MW by 2020; an area has been set aside for future development of ocean energy in order to facilitate licensing. During 2009, South Korea completed a 1 MW tidal-current plant and began construction of a 260 MW tidal plant. Europe added at least 0.4 MW of ocean power capacity. The United Kingdom is currently in the lead with at least 0.5 MW of wave capacity, 1.5 MW of tidal stream capacity, and a 1.2 MW tidal-current plant—the world’s first commercial-scale tidal turbine to generate electricity for the grid, producing enough to power about 1,000 U.K. homes. By late in the year, 58 MW of commercial A 2.5 MW commercial wave plant was installed in Portuguese waters in 2008, with plans to expand total capacity up to 250 MW by 2020; an area has been set aside for future development of ocean energy in order to facilitate licensing. During 2009, South Korea completed a 1 MW tidal-current plant and began construction of a 260 MW tidal plant.110 Europe added at least 0.4 MW of ocean power capacity. The United Kingdom is currently in the lead with at least 0.5 MW of wave capacity, 1.5 MW of tidal stream capacity, and a 1.2 MW tidal-current plant—the world’s first commercial-scale tidal turbine to generate electricity for the grid, producing enough to power about 1,000 U.K. homes. By late in the year, 58 MW of commercial scale projects were being developed in U.K. waters, 27 MW of which had obtained planning permission.
Hydropower supplied 15 percent of global electricity production in 2008. An estimated 31 GW was added in 2008, and a further 31 GW was added during 2009—an increase in capacity that was second only to wind power. Global hydropower capacity reached an estimated 980 GW by the end of 2009, including 60 GW of small hydro.
China has seen the greatest growth, nearly doubling its hydropower capacity during the five-year period of 2004–2009. The country added 23 GW in 2009 to end the year with 197 GW.By late 2009, the United States had some 81 GW of hydro capacity, including 10 GW of small-scale plants, plus 19 GW of pumped storage. Brazil had approximately 76 GW of capacity by early 2010. Canada had more than 74 GW of hydropower capacity at the end of 2008 and about 4 GW of additional capacity under construction by early 2010. In Europe during 2009, conventional projects entered commercial operation in Norway (270 MW), the United Kingdom (100 MW), and Slovenia (43 MW), and Austria added 525 MW of pumped storage. The 300 MW Tekezé dam in Ethiopia, Africa’s tallest concrete arch dam (and taller than the Three Gorges dam in China) also began operation in 2009. Many other developing countries continue to actively develop hydropower on large and small scales. In un-electrified rural areas, small hydro is often used in autonomous or semi autonomous applications to replace diesel generators or other small-scale power plants.