Australia left behind as emerging economies endorse renewables

An increasing number of emerging economies are nurturing renewable energy growth through supportive policies, according to a French-based energy think-tank.

The Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) report shows 144 countries have solid renewable energy support policies and targets in place. Of these, 95 were identified as “developing nations”, a number that has surged more than six-fold in just eight years, up from 15 in 2005.

Global renewable energy capacity is now more than 1560MW, 8 per cent higher than in 2012.

“Markets, manufacturing, and investment expanded further across the developing world, clearly illustrating that renewables are no longer dependent upon a small handful of countries,” the report said.

Among the report’s highlights are claims renewables accounted for more than 56 per cent of net additions to global power capacity last year, as well as:

• Hydropower rose by 4 per cent to approximately 1000 GW in 2013, accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year. Other renewables collectively grew nearly 17 per cent to an estimated 560 GW.

• Renewable energy provided 19 per cent of global final energy consumption in 2012, and continued to grow in 2013. Of this total share in 2012, modern renewables accounted for 10 per cent with the remaining 9 per cent coming from traditional biomass the share of which is declining.

• Useful heat energy from modern renewable sources accounted for an estimated 4.2 per cent of total final energy use; hydropower made up about 3.8 per cent, and an estimated
2 per cent was provided by power from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, as well as by biofuels.

The research also found, for the first time, more solar PV than wind power capacity was added worldwide, accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year.

However, REN21 also acknowledges the rise of support for renewables in the developing world contrasts strongly with declining support and renewables policy uncertainty in many European countries, as well as the US and Australia.

Clean Energy Council chief executive David Green said the report, which showed strong global momentum on renewable energy, was at odds with Australia’s stagnant renewable energy industry.

“With more than 140 countries now adopting renewable energy targets in some form, Australia is part of a mainstream global move towards cleaner sources of power such as solar, wind, bioenergy, hydro, ocean and geothermal energy,” Mr Green said.

“But Australia is at risk of being left behind as other countries continue to strengthen their targets for renewable energy. “The process of constantly reviewing Australia’s Renewable Energy Target is destabilising the market and stalling local investment.”

Mr Green said US president Barack Obama announced another acceleration in renewable energy construction this week as part of a comprehensive clean energy package.

“China has introduced an ambitious clean energy program to deal with its air pollution, and in 2013 the installation of new renewable energy capacity in China passed fossil fuel and nuclear power for the first time. Last year alone China installed more wind and solar than any other country in the world,” he said.

“India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi has pledged to provide enough solar power to run at least one light bulb in every home. And meanwhile some of the world’s largest economies are those with the most renewable energy installed, including the United States, Germany and Canada.”

Commenting Australia has some of the best sun, wind and waves in the world, Mr Green said the Renewable Energy Target needed to be left to get on with the job it was designed to do under former prime minister John Howard and expanded in 2009 with the support of the major parties.

“Business can then get on with driving the creation of much-needed jobs and investment in partnership with local communities,” Mr Green said.