Growth of global renewable energy outstripping coal and nuclear

Feature story - June 23, 2011
Amsterdam — A new Greenpeace analysis of the global power-plant market shows that since the 1990s installations of wind and solar grew faster than any other power-plant technology.

nd farm along the Silk Road in China © Greenpeace / John Novis

The Greenpeace report, The Silent Energy Revolution: 20 Years in the Making, shows that renewable energy power plants grew by 26 per cent, compared with nine per cent for gas and eight per cent for coal.

In addition, renewable energy expanded rapidly, reaching its biggest market share in 2010 and providing enough capacity to supply electricity to the equivalent of one third of Europe.

The Greenpeace report also highlights how renewable energy power plants accounted for more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all new power plants added to the worldwide electricity grid over the past decade, compared to just two per cent for nuclear power stations in the same period.

Renewable energy is now the world’s fastest growing source of power plant installations. Governments have a simple, clear choice: continue being shackled to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, or start an energy revolution by implementing renewable energy laws across the globe that will lead to investment in a renewable energy future. Such a future will boost global economic development, create green jobs and play a key role in mitigating climate change.

The Silent Energy Revolution report shows that the global wind industry added some 35,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity in 2010 alone. The global nuclear industry needed a decade (2000 – 2010) to add the same capacity.

During the same decade, new coal installations declined in every country except China, where almost 80 per cent of the world’s new coal plants went into operation. However, China has not only phased out some of its dirtiest coal plants over the last five years, it has also increased its domestic wind market, doubling capacity every year since 2003. More money has been invested in China’s renewables industry than in coal since 2009.

There is a clear trend away from coal and nuclear power plants towards renewable power plants, a massive step in the right direction.

In the US and Europe, renewables make up a growing share of installations, especially wind and solar photovoltaic. This is thanks to legally binding targets for renewable energy policies, such as feed-in laws.

Greenpeace calls on governments to ensure the trend to renewables continues to a 100 per cent renewable energy supply. North America and Europe can lead faster deployment of new renewables while retiring old coal plants. This will help achieve the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions needed to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

The Silent Energy Revolution: 20 Years in the Making

More on the Greenpeace Energy [R]evolution, a sustainable path to a renewable energy and energy efficiency future