Renewable Energy Investment at Record High - Report
Author: Lindsay Beck
The Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based organisation working for environmental sustainability, said the renewables sector was growing as a result of government support and increasing private sector investment.
"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 targetting 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 a 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.
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 US 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.