Posted: 25 January 2006

Although fossil fuels still account for 90 per cent of commercial energy consumption, the private sector in some countries is waking up to the unprecedented investment opportunity offered by renewable energy technologies to supply our growing power needs sustainably. A number of innovative government policies are helping to spur this trend:

Blyth Offshore Windfarm
Blyth Offshore Windfarm
Blyth, the UK's first offshore windfarm. © E.ON

  • In 2004, world oil consumption saw the greatest increase in 16 years, rising by 3.4 per cent, yet in 33 of the 48 biggest oil-producing countries, production is falling.

  • Global wind power capacity rose 20 per cent in 2004, to approximately 47,760 megawatts, sufficient to power over 22 million average homes in Europe. Germany and Spain top the production table, followed by the US.

  • In 2004, the global market for solar thermal collectors for heating and water gew by 17 per cent. More than half the world's solar heating capacity is accounted for by China.

  • In 2004, world production of solar PV cells rose to approximately 1,200 megawatts. Japan accounts for over 50 per cent of the world market and Europe for some 27 per cent.

  • Global production of biodiesel and ethanol is increasing, led by Brazil and the US. Biodiesel production grew by 18 per cent between 2002 and 2003, while ethanol increased by 13.6 per cent in 2004.

  • Total installed nuclear generating capacity increased by over 2 per cent to nearly 366,000 megawatts between 2003 and 2004.

    Source: Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2005