Renewables dominate new power in Europe, US

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More than half of all new electricity capacity added in the United States and Europe last year was from renewable power such as wind and solar, a body backed by the International Energy Agency and the UN reported.

Last year was also a record year for the amount of new green power added to the grid, partly a result of shifting deployment and manufacturing from flagging developed countries to emerging economies including Brazil, India and China.

"In 2009, China produced 40% of the world's solar PV supply, 30% of the world's wind turbines, up from 10% in 2007," REN21, or the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, said in a report on Thursday (15 July).

REN21, launched in 2005, is supported by the International Energy Agency (IEA) – which advises 28 industrialised countries – and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Of an extra 80 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable power capacity added worldwide, China added 37 GW, more than any other country, said the study, titled 'Renewables 2010: Global Status Report'.

Boom largely due to European support

Despite the impact of the financial crisis and lower oil prices, renewable capacity grew at rates close to those in previous years, including solar photovoltaic (PV) power at 53% and wind power at 32%, the report said.

Grid-connected solar PV power had grown by an average of 60% every year for the past decade, increasing 100-fold since 2000.

Germany was the top market for solar PV, with 3.8 GW added, or more than half the global market. Spain, the world leader in 2008, saw installations plunge to a low level in 2009 after a policy cap was exceeded.

For wind power, China was the top market, with 13.8 GW added, representing more than a third of the world market. The United States was second, with 10 GW added.

In Sweden, biomass accounted for a larger share of energy supply than oil for the first time.

That boom has been largely on the back of support in European countries, where a recent pullback following recession has raised investor jitters. But the wind and solar sectors were still poised for a record year in 2010, operators and investors say.

While China is making great strides in renewable energy deployment, its carbon emissions also accelerated in 2009 – placing it further ahead as the world's top emitter of the main greenhouse gas blamed for climate change.

Italy cuts renewable incentives

Meanwhile, Italy's energy regulator chairman, Alessandro Ortis, said renewable energy incentives would cost the country's finances more than three billion euros in 2010. He said the incentives should be reviewed to avoid about a 20% rise in power bills by 2020.

"For energy from incentives, we're paying about three times the price of conventional energy," Ortis said in his annual speech on Thursday (15 July). "We need a review of the duration and the level of incentives, with particular attention to solar energy," he added.

Italy's government has decided to cut incentives to the sector in 2011-2013.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

European leaders signed up in March 2007 to a binding EU-wide target to source 20% of their energy needs from renewables, including biomass, hydro, wind and solar power, by 2020. 

To meet this objective, EU leaders agreed a new directive on promoting renewable energies, which set individual targets for each member state.

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