Renewable Energy - Developing Nations Rising to the Challenge

In 2010, according to a Global Status Report by The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), renewable energy supplied an estimated 16% of global final energy consumption and delivered close to 20% of global electricity production. Renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity. Including the estimated 30 GW of hydro power added in 2010, RE accounted for approximately 50% of total added power generating capacity in 2010.

In 2010, existing solar water and space heating capacity increased by an estimated 25 gigawatts-thermal (GWth), or about 16%. Global solar PV production and markets more than doubled in comparison with 2009, thanks to government incentive programmes and the continued fall in PV module prices. Germany installed more PV in 2010 than the entire world added in 2009. PV markets in Japan and the U.S. almost doubled relative to 2009.
Globally, wind power was the most new added capacity (followed by hydropower and solar PV), but for the first time ever, Europe added more PV than wind capacity.
India, meanwhile, has been making steady progress in conventional as well as renewable power generation. From 2002 onwards, renewable grid capacity as a percentage of total capacity has increased four fold. In April 2002, renewable energy based power generation installed capacity was 3497 MW which was 3% of the total installed capacity in the country. By 2011, it has reached 18,842 MW, which is about 11% of the total installed capacity of 1,72,283 MW and corresponds to a contribution of about 4.13% in the electricity mix.
Renewable energy policies continue to be the main driver behind renewable energy growth. By early 2011, at least 119 countries had some type of policy target or renewable support policy at the national level, more than doubling from 55 countries in early 2005. More than half of these countries are in the developing world. At least 95 countries now have some type of policy to support renewable power generation. Of all the policies employed by governments, feed-in tariffs remain the most common.
Wind farms in China and small-scale solar panels on rooftops in Europe were largely responsible for last year’s 32% rise in green energy investments worldwide according to the latest annual report on renewable energy investment trends issued by UNEP. Last year, investors pumped a record $211 billion into renewables -- about one-third more than the $160 billion invested in 2009, and a 540% rise since 2004. For the first time, developing economies overtook developed ones in terms of "financial new investment"--spending on utility-scale renewable energy projects and provision of equity capital for renewable energy companies.
In India, renewable energy investments registered a growth of 25% adding up to $3.8 billion. Global investments on R&D by governments also rose by 120% and reached over $5 billion. Developed countries still lead in investment in small-scale power projects and R&D during 2010. Germany, Italy and the US were the top three. India is among the top five countries with non-hydro renewable power capacity, after the US, China, Germany and Spain.
The price of PV modules per megawatt has fallen 60% since mid-2008, making solar power far more competitive in a number of sunny countries. Renewable energy in even the most remote areas is ensuring that more of the world’s people are gaining access to basic energy services, including lighting and communications, cooking, heating and cooling, and water pumping, while also generating economic growth through services such as motive power.
Among BRIC nations, China led the world in the installation of wind turbines and solar thermal systems and was the top hydropower producer in 2010. The country added an estimated 29 GW of grid-connected renewable capacity, for a total of 252 GW, an increase of 13% compared with 2009. Renewables accounted for about 26% of China’s total installed electric capacity in 2010, 18% of generation, and more than 9% of final energy supply. Brazil produces virtually all of the world’s sugar-derived ethanol, and has been adding new hydropower, biomass and wind power plants, as well as solar heating systems. Developing countries (collectively) now account for more than half of global renewable energy power.
“The increased renewable energy activity in developing countries highlighted in this year’s report is very encouraging, since most of the future growth in energy demand is expected to occur in developing countries,” says Mohamed El-Ashry, Chairman of REN21’s Steering Committee.
Back home in India, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, in it's annual report, intends to achieve the following objectives in 2010 -11:
Solar Mission Operationalised: The Ministry issued guidelines for (i) new grid projects through NVVN, (ii) small grid projects through IREDA, (iii) off-grid solar applications; and (iv) technical performance and domestic content requirements of solar projects, to operationalise the Solar Mission. Projects under each of the separate schemes have been sanctioned for implementation, leading to capacity addition of more than 17 MWp during the year and sanction of 804 MW of grid connected projects and 32 MW of off-grid projects.
Ladakh Project: This is a new Renewable Energy Initiative for this area to reduce diesel consumption. The project proposes to meet power requirements through small/micro hydel and solar photovoltaic power projects /systems, use of solar thermal systems for meeting water heating/space heating/cooking requirements and set up green houses to increase vegetable production. The work of survey on all the sites have been completed and DPRs are under preparation. The project of 473 crore commenced on June 1, 2010 and is for a period of three and a half years.
Community Cookstoves Initiative: A pilot demonstration project has been taken up to demonstrate the potential of larger efficient biomass cookstoves for community applications such as Anganwadi, Mid-day Meals in Schools, Dhabas etc. in eight identified States. The project is being implemented in association with State Nodal Agencies (SNAs) and NGOs. This would help set up a road map for substantially upscaling their installations in market mode and for relevant government programmes leading to substantial savings of wood.
BOOT model for Cogeneration Projects: 21 Bagasse cogeneration projects have been taken up through BOOT (Build, Own, Operate, Transfer) model in cooperative sector sugar mills set up by Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) or an Independent Power Producer (IPP) in the states of Punjab, Maharashtra and Tamilnadu.
Solar Cities/Green Buildings: The Ministry operationalised the GRIHA rating scheme. Independent Society “ADARSH” established by Ministry for implementation of rating system. Government has mandated that new Central government and PSU buildings would go for minimum GRIHA – 3 star rating. Ten Cities to be developed as ‘Pilot Solar Cities’, Four Cities will be developed as ‘Model Solar Cities’ and 50 new Small townships/Campuses being promoted as green Renewable Energy townships under the Solar Cities Programme.
Micro-hydel scheme: The Ministry has sanctioned support for 3547 water mills in 9 states. So far 1414 water mills have been setup. The Ministry also sanctioned 28 micro hydel projects (up to 100 kW) under the new scheme announced in February 2009.
“More and more of the world’s people are gaining access to energy services through renewables, not only to meet their basic needs, but also to enable them to develop economically”, says El-Ashry. This is a welcome trend, if we go by these reports. The world's energy requirement is growing in leaps and bounds and developed countries are still the greatest power guzzlers in the world followed close on heels by emerging economies. It is encouraging to know that more funds are being made available for R&D and of the surge in RE adoption wordwide - an indication of the growing interest and keenness at policy levels. Even though initial figures are encouraging, we still have a long way to go before we transition to clean energy and a cleaner earth.
Sources: The Renewables 2011 Global Status Report, World Watch Institute; Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011, UNEP; Annual Report 2010 -11, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India.