Significant increase in global renewable energy use in 2012

by Cassandra Allen on April 10, 2013

A recent report published by Clean Edge Inc., a research and advisory firm specialising in the clean-tech sector, shows significant worldwide increase in the use of renewable energy in 2012.

Marking the firm’s 12th year, the report covers “tracking, forecasting, and market sizing the global solar, wind, and biofuels markets, to detailed analysis of solar PV pricing, the public markets, and venture capital investments…” This year’s report focuses on 5 key trends that will have an impact on the clean energy market in the coming years:

  1. Smart Devices and Big Data Empower Customers, Open New Chapter in Energy Efficiency
  2. Distributed Solar Financing Comes of Age
  3. Under the EV Radar, Microhybrid Technology Saves Big on Fuel Consumption
  4. In the U.S. and Overseas, Geothermal Picks up Steam
  5. Perfectly Natural: Biomimicry Makes its Mark on Clean Tech

There was a significant increase in the use of the three largest sources of renewable energy, namely wind, solar, and biofuels. However, income generated by these remained largely unchanged due to the steady fall of solar PV panel costs. According to Clean Edge founder Ron Pernick in an Interview with The Guardian, the industry “always knew each doubling of [solar PV] installation would reduce prices about 18%.” The solar sector has seen rapid development in recent years, especially after the Chinese government invested heavily into the industry. This partly explains why, in 2012, there has only been a 1% increase in global revenue for renewable energy use.

Other factors

While the Chinese government’s effort has been perceived as a welcome move by most sectors, especially from environmentalists, it has also caused an overproduction of solar products that has become a problem in the EU and US. Several companies have already filed formal complaints of dumping against Chinese manufacturers, prompting the EU to take measures that might lead to imposition of tariff on all Chinese solar products.

The future

Despite the challenges, the report remains optimistic about the future outlook of renewable energy.

According to a summary on the Clean Edge website, “The fundamental global market drivers for clean technology, however, remain largely intact. Intensifying resource constraints (everything from freshwater to energy feedstocks) cannot be ignored, especially with a global population now exceeding 7 billion. In the aftermath of unprecedented climate disruption in the U.S. and abroad, resiliency and adaptation are becoming critical business and policy drivers as organizations scramble to meet a literally changing landscape.”

Governments have indeed shown more sincere commitment towards addressing climate change through the use of renewable energy. In the UK, the Green Deal initiative has been implemented as part of the government’s effort for a more energy-efficient country. While it has mostly been met with mixed reviews, most people agree to give it more time to be properly implemented to appreciate its rewards and drawbacks.

The report has also made predictions for the future use of the three main types of renewable energy:

  • Biofuels – From 2011 to 2012, global biofuels production expanded from 27.9 billion gallons to 31.4 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel. Market size growth over the next decade is expected to be driven by added production, but also by modest price increases.
  • Wind power (new installation capital costs) is projected to grow from $73.8 billion in 2012, up from $71.5 billion the previous year, to $124.7 billion in 2022. Global wind capacity expanded by 44.7 gigawatts in 2012, a record year led by more than 13 GW added in both China and the U.S., and an additional 12.4 GW of new capacity in Europe.
  • Solar photovoltaics (including modules, system components, and installation) decreased from a record $91.6 billion in 2011 to $79.7 billion in 2012 as continued growth in annual capacity additions was not enough to offset falling PV prices. While total market revenues fell 19 percent – the first PV market contraction in Clean Energy Trends’ 12-year history – global installations expanded to a record of 30.9 GW in 2012, up from 29.6 GW the prior year. Germany remained the top market, adding 7.6 GW in 2012, followed by strong growth in China, Italy, and the U.S., which each added more than 3 GW. By 2022, solar PV revenues are expected to grow to $123.6 billion.

The entire report can be downloaded for free here



About the Author: 
Cassandra Allen
Marketing Director of
Cassandra is a marketing professional with over 15 years of extensive experience leading corporate marketing and internal communications for multi-national companies in diverse industries.

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