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19 July 2010

Renewables investment outstrips non-renewables for second year in a row

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New capacity in Europe and US exceeds new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity during 2009

The growing dominance of the renewable-energy sector was underlined on July 15 with the release of two new reports revealing that global investments in renewables during 2009 exceeded investment in non-renewable energy sources for the second year in succession.

According to figures from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Energy Agency-backed Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) project, the amount of new energy capacity coming from renewable sources in Europe and the US also topped that coming from fossil fuels and nuclear for the second year.

Renewables accounted for 60 per cent of newly installed capacity in Europe and more than 50 per cent in the USA last year. The REN21 report predicted this year or next will see the same milestone reached on a global level, with rapid expansion in Chinese wind farms leading the rapid increase in renewable energy capacity in developing economies.

"Globally, nearly 80GW of renewable power capacity was added in 2009, including 31GW of hydro and 48GW of non-hydro capacity," the report stated. " This combined renewables figure is now closing in on the 83GW of fossil fuel capacity installed in the same year. If the trend continues, then 2010 or 2011 could be the first year that new capacity added in low-carbon power exceeds that in fossil-fuel stations."

The report also confirmed that investment in renewable energy projects, excluding large-scale hydro projects, reached $100bn in 2009, matching investment in new fossil-fuel plants. However, when the $39bn invested in hydro projects last year is taken into account, investment in renewable energy projects comfortably outstripped investment in new coal- and gas-fired power plants.

The UNEP report, which was carried out by London-based analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance, also concluded that the renewable energy sector weathered the global recession far better than had been expected.


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