Green energy market ‘resilient’ to downturn in 2009, according to U.N.

CNN This story, posted today on by Matthew Knight, notes that despite the international recession, investment in renewable energy is still growing, according to the United Nations. In fact, more than half of all new electricity capacity created in 2009 came from renewable sources, with wind power leading the charge in overall increase in investment.

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Posted July 16, 2010

By Matthew Knight,

London, England (CNN) — The creation of new power capacity
from renewable energy has exceeded new fossil fuel power generation in
the United States and Europe for the second year running, according to
two United Nations reports published Thursday.

accounted for over 50 percent of new capacity in the U.S. in 2009 while
in Europe the figure was 60 percent, leading the U.N. to predict that
the world as a whole will add more capacity to the electricity supply
from renewables than non-renewables this year or by 2011.

nearly 80 giga-watts (GW) of new renewable power capacity was added in
2009, the U.N. reported.

U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP)
executive director, Achim Steiner said in a statement that the story of
renewable energy investment in 2009 was one of "resilience to the
financial downturn," with many businesses and governments determined to
"transform the financial and economic crisis into an opportunity for
greener growth."

The two reports — "Global Trends in Sustainable
Energy Investment 2010" and "Renewables, 2010 Global Status" — reveal
that investment fell seven percent, from $173 billion in 2008 to $162
billion in 2009, largely due to declines in large-scale solar power and
biofuels investment, which dropped 27 percent and 62 percent

But other green energy sub-sectors bucked the
downward global investment trend.

Wind and biomass sectors both
saw investment rise 14 percent, while energy smart technologies — which
include power storage and energy efficiency devices — rose 34 percent
to $4 billion.

"One of the upsides of the downturn of last year
was that it did lead to a significant decease in the cost of some these
[renewable] technologies, particularly in solar," Eric Usher, manager
the UN's Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative, told CNN.

while investment numbers are flat or a little bit decreasing the actual
scale of installation has been continuingly increasing."

China is an
example of what can be done, with good, strong policy to develop a
vibrant sector
–Julian Wong

According to the U.N., wind power received
record investment in 2009 — $67 billion in 2009 compared with $59
billion in 2008 — with a total of 38 GW of new energy installed

Over a third of this capacity was due to Chinese
growth where 13.8 GW of wind power were added in 2009.

Wong, a Chinese energy policy expert at the Washington-based think tank,
the Center for American Progress, told CNN: "China is doing what no
other country in the world is doing. China is an example of what can be
done, with good, strong policy to develop a vibrant sector."

says the Chinese domestic market is growing very quickly, with the
government now targeting seven sites across the country which will be
wind "megabases" generating 10-20 GW of power.

"I expect sometime
this year, or early next, China will revise its targets on renewable
energy upwards. This will provide a very strong signal to investors and
provincial government that it is a priority for the country," Wong said.

China's renewable energy expansion is a "positive message
globally," Eric Usher believes.

"But it's also a warning signal
for western industries that they're very serious about this sector and
the competition will be strong in the future," Usher said.

not just China where wind power is really taking off. The U.N.
highlighted the growth of wind power in the North Sea off the UK.

are shaping up extremely well for the UK wind energy sector," Nick
Medic, head of communications at RenewableUK, the trade body for
country's renewable wind and marine industries.

"We have a
colossal 49 GW offshore at various stages of development which could
supply around 40 percent of the UK's total electricity," Medic said.

Unlike its large-scale cousin, smaller solar photovoltaics (PV)
panels received record investment in 2009 passing the $40 billion mark.

The U.N. says that grid-connected solar power had grown from 0.2 GW
in 2000 to 21 GW by the end of 2009.

Europe and Asia/Oceania are
the two powerhouses of investment according to the U.N., contributing
nearly $85 billion (Europe $43.7 billion, Asia/Oceania $41 billion) of
total green energy investments in 2009.

Asia/Oceania was the only
region to see a significant increase in investment — up nearly $10
billion from 2008. The Middle East and Africa saw a modest increase from
$2.1 billion in 2008 to £2.5 billion in 2009.

"The fundamentals
of the sector continue to be quite strong. The fact that you've seen a
plateauing in investment rather than a large drop off in the last two
years has signaled that the markets are in the longer term still poised
for growth," Usher said.

More than 100 countries now have
renewable energy policies or promotions in place — nearly double the
figure five years ago, according to the U.N.

Renewable energy now
contributes a quarter of the world's electricity capacity and is
responsible for 18 percent of global power production.

Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New
Energy Finance said in a statement: "The relatively resilient
performance of the sector during the current economic downturn shows
that clean energy was not a bubble created by the late stages of the
credit boom, but is instead an investment theme that will remain
important for the years ahead."

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