OPINION: Renewables Surge Despite Economic Crisis
The 2008 figures are in from the new REN 21 Renewables Global Status Report: Renewable power capacity (excluding large hydropower) increased a hefty 16 percent last year, which is remarkable given that world oil use actually declined. Growth in some renewable sectors was even more impressive. Biodiesel production increased 34 percent, and solar power took the prize with a 73 percent jump.
Renewable energy has not entirely escaped the impact of the global recession - growth this year will almost certainly be slower - but it is clear that global energy markets have turned a corner. Political support and business investment in new energy sources have reached the point where the new industries appear hard to stop. REN 21 reports that 64 nations now have policies to promote renewable power generation. Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs across the globe are responding with unprecedented innovation. Overnight, the energy business has begun to resemble the I.T. industry more than it does the energy industry of the past.
Once dominated by wealthy European nations, the renewable energy surge has now taken hold in the world's most dynamic energy markets, including Brazil, China, and India. And the United States is enjoying an Obama boom. Clean energy growth is accelerating in response to new government subsidies and unprecedented support from the White House and from governors across the nation.
With the world now sitting at the edge of a climate catastrophe, it's still not clear that the energy system will be transformed quickly enough to prevent disaster. But progress in energy policy and markets is now exceeding expectations and entering a new period of dynamic growth and innovation. If a strong climate agreement can be reached in Copenhagen this fall, the world still has a fighting chance to make it out of the fossil fuel age with the global ecosystem intact.
This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Worldwatch Institute. For more news and information visit: www.worldwatch.org.