The world has now breached a tipping point of some significance. According to Phyllis Cuttino, Director of the Clean Energy Program at The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the worldwide installed capacity of renewable energy has now surpassed that of nuclear power.
Writing for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the pair note that with increased investment in renewable energy over the last year, the world now has more renewable energy capacity in place than nuclear power.
Nuclear power has traditionally held up about 20-30% of the electricity supplied to the grid, from the days when clean power was almost totally supplied by hydroelectric power, geothermal power and nuclear power. But now as more wind, and to a lesser extent, more solar is added to the grid, that is changing. Global investment in (non-nuclear) renewable energy such as wind and solar grew 30% in 2010 and topped $243 billion.
Wind has garnered almost half of that total of renewable investment, 48%, with the adding some 40 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity – enough to power 30 million homes. 17 GW of solar-generation capacity was added in 2010 from investments totaling US$79 billion, supplying enough electricity to power more than 12.5 million homes.
Most of the growth was outside the US, where rational long-term policies – from research, to financing, to feed-in tariffs and cap and trade – in the world’s largest economies have driven large-scale investment.
In 2009, the US took second place only to China, according to the previous Pew report covering the increase in renewable investments.
But in 2010, Pew’s new report shows that not just China, but also Germany has overtaken the entire US, to take second place. China attracted the most investment, $54 billion. Next was Germany, with $41.2 billion in renewable energy investment, at a time when non-Asian world economies are sluggish. The US investment was third, at $34 billion.
To put those figures in perspective, China has a population of 1.3 billion, Germany, 82 million, and the US 307 million.
Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.