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GLOBAL INVESTMENT
IN RENEWABLE ENERGY
SET A NEW WORLD RECORD

Global investment in renewable energy set a new record of $30 billion in 2004, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). Technologies such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and small hydro now provide 160 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity, about 4 percent of the world total, the report finds.

"Renewable energy has become big business," said Eric Martinot, lead author of Renewables 2005: Global Status Report. Martinot, who is a Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute and a Lecturer at Tsinghua University in Beijing, notes that renewable energy is attracting some of the world's largest companies, including General Electric, Siemens, Sharp, and Royal Dutch Shell. The report estimates that nearly 40 million households worldwide heat their water with solar collectors, most of them installed in the last five years. Altogether, renewable energy industries provide 1.7 million jobs, most of them skilled and well-paying.

The Global Status Report was compiled by Martinot, working with more than 100 researchers and contributors from at least 20 countries. It provides an assessment of several renewables technologies—small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels—that are now competing with conventional fuels in four distinct markets: power generation, hot water and space heating, transportation fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy supplies.

The report finds that government support for renewable energy is growing rapidly. At least 48 countries now have some type of renewable energy promotion policy, including 14 developing countries. Most targets are for shares of electricity production, typically 5-30 percent, by the 2010-2012 timeframe. Mandates for blending biofuels into vehicle fuels have been enacted in at least 20 states and provinces worldwide as well as in three key countries—Brazil, China and India.

Government leadership provides the key to market success, according to the report. The market leaders in renewable energy in 2004 were Brazil in biofuels, China in solar hot water, Germany in solar electricity, and Spain in wind power.

Other findings in the report include:

* The fastest growing energy technology in the world is grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV), which grew in existing capacity by 60 percent per year from 2000-2004, to cover more than 400,000 rooftops in Japan, Germany, and the United States. Second is wind power capacity, which grew by 28 percent last year, led by Germany, with almost 17 gigawatts installed as of 2004.

* Production of biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) exceeded 33 billion liters in 2004, when ethanol displaced about 3 percent of the 1,200 billion liters of gasoline globally.

* An estimated US $500 million goes to developing countries each year as development assistance for renewable energy projects, training, and market support, with the German Development Finance Group (KfW), the World Bank Group, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) providing the majority of these funds, and dozens of other donors and programs providing the rest.

* Over 4.5 million "green" power consumers in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan purchased renewable electricity at the retail level or via certificates in 2004.

The Global Status Report fills a gap in the international energy reporting arena, which has tended to neglect the emerging renewable energy technologies. Regular updates will be produced in the future. The report was produced and published by the Worldwatch Institute and released today at the Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference 2005, sponsored by the Government of China. This Conference brings together government and private leaders from around the world, providing a forum for international leadership on renewable energy and connects the wide variety of stakeholders that came together at the International Conference for Renewable Energies in Bonn, Germany, in 2004.

The creation of REN21 was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Formally established in Copenhagen in June 2005, REN21 is now supported by a steering committee of 11 governments, 5 intergovernmental organizations, 5 non-governmental organizations, and several regional, local, and private organizations.

Written by: Worldwatch Institute

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