Renewable Energy No Longer 'Alternative:' Green Fuels Hit Mainstream Growth

Renewable Energy No Longer 'Alternative:' Green Fuels Hit Mainstream Growth

Wind, solar and bio-based fuels are no longer "alternative" energies, according to a new report. Instead, with steady, rapid growth and nearly 5 percent of total global energy capacity, these renewable energy technologies are ready for prime time.

The report, "REN21 Renewables Global Status Report 2007," was produced by REN21, a renewable energy policy group, and the Worldwatch Institute. It examines the growth of renewable energy in the decade since the Kyoto Protocol was passed, and finds that, out of a total global energy use of 4,300 gigawatts, renewable energy makes up 240 GW, or just over 5 percent.

In addition to its relatively large output, four main categories of renewables have grown quickly and steadily in recent years. Photovoltaic solar power sources grew by 50 to 60 percent in 2006, while wind power grew by 30 percent and biofuels and solar thermal both grew 15 to 20 percent in 2006.

Wind energy makes up the biggest share of the renewables market, with a total of 90 gigawatts of capacity in 2007, 11 times the amount generated by wind sources in 1997.

"With more than 70 countries installing wind power and biomass power generation expanding in more than 40 countries, renewable energy is clearly a global sector", said Mohamed El-Ashry, head of REN21. He added, "growth is being driven by policies to promote renewable energy, which have mushroomed over the past few years."

These policies have sprung up in a patchwork fashion, so that now more than 50 countries around the globe have set targets for domestic renewable energy, and at least 56 countries have created a policy to promote renewable energy. But entirely local or regional policies won't achieve the results needed to stem global warming, the group said.

"What's needed now are binding targets in an international agreement to establish polices that can rapidly accelerate the large-scale deployment of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels," El-Ashry said.

The report, timed to coincide with the climate summit happening in Bali, is available from REN21.net.