Science in Society Archive

Global Shift to Renewable Energies Happening

More renewable energies capacity added than conventional for the first time in 2008

In 2008, for the first time, more renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in both the European Union and United States, showing a [1] “fundamental transition of the world’s energy markets towards renewable energy.” This is the finding of the Renewables Global Status Report released by REN21, a global network based in Paris [2].

Global power capacity from new renewable energies (excluding large hydro) reached 280 GW in 2008, a 16 percent rise from the 240 GW in 2007, and nearly three times the capacity of the US nuclear sector.

This has come in the midst of an historic and global economic crisis, Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of REN21 points out.

At least 73 countries have renewable energy policy targets today, up from 66 at the end of 2007.

Solar tops the list of renewable energies, just beating wind power. Solar heating capacity increased by 15 percent to 145 GW. Grid-connected solar photovoltaic power continued to be the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 70 percent increase in existing capacity to reach 13 GW. Spain became the solar photovoltaic market leader, with 2.6 GW of new grid-tied installations. The concentrating solar power industry saw many new entrants and new manufacturing facilities in 2008. Solar hot water in Germany set record growth in 2008, with over 200,000 systems installed.

Global wind power capacity grew by 29 percent in 2008 to reach 121 GW. China’s total wind power capacity doubled in 2008 for the fifth year running, and developing countries, particularly

China and India are increasingly playing major roles in both the manufacture and installation of renewable energy. India emerged in 2008 as a major producer of solar photovoltaics, with new policies leading to $18 billion in new manufacturing investment plans or proposals.

The recent growth of the sector [of renewable energies] has surpassed all predictions, even those made by the industry itself,” says El-Ashry.   New investment reached $120 billion, up 16 percent over 2007.

Geothermal power capacity surpassed 10 GW in 2008, led by the United States. Direct geothermal energy delivered by ground source heat pumps is now used in at least 76 countries.

Among the many new renewable energy targets set in 2008, Australia targeted 45 TWh of electricity by 2020. Brazil’s is seeking to slightly increase through 2030 its existing share of primary energy from renewable energy (46 percent in 2007), and its electricity share (87 percent in 2007).

India increased its target to 14 GW of new renewables capacity by 2012.

Japan set new targets for 14 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030.

The EU formally adopted its target to reach a 20 percent share of renewable energy in final consumption by 2020, setting also country-specific targets for all member states.

Feed-in tariffs were adopted at the national level in at least five countries for the first time in 2008 and early 2009, including Kenya, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, and Ukraine.

The REN21 report also shows that several hundred cities and local governments around the world are planning or implementing renewable energy policies and frameworks linked to carbon dioxide emissions reduction.

Article first published 03/06/09


  1. “Growth of renewables transforms global energy picture”, Environment News Service, 13 May 2009,
  2. “Renewable Global Status Report: energy transformation continues despite economic slowdown” REN21 press release, 13 May 2009,

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There are 3 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Santhanam R. Comment left 4th June 2009 21:09:10
One needs to factor in Fuel cells. It has already developed into commercially available generators which run on natural gas methane CH4 which is used for hydrogen supply. Alternatively it uses hydrogen gas straight, although it is difficult to store and use.These are being manufactured in India with US collaboration already. Major use is in Telecom industry in repeater stations as standby or remote locations power supply.Such power generation also reduces power losses in transmission since it is produced and consumed in a decentralised manner.

Mike Rogers Comment left 4th June 2009 13:01:17
Don't forget solar thermal. It won't run a computer (in a residential setting--there are industrial scale electric generation solar thermal systems), but it's a good cost-effective first step. Check out a short description of a video project we’re starting on. Of interest here because the concept trial piece is about solar hot water. See Thanks, Mike Comment left 7th July 2009 08:08:05
really good