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Global Wind and Solar Installations Exceeded 'Expert' Growth Predictions

Roman Kilisek's picture
Analyst, Writer, Researcher, Global Oil and Gas Breaking Energy

Roman Kilisek is an energy analyst and international affairs professional based in New York. Currently, he is writing, reporting and analyzing social, economic and political developments that may...

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  • Apr 2, 2015
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HUSUM 2012 Wind Energy Trade Fair

Global growth in renewable energy sources – especially wind and solar PV installations – continues to break records while the installed capacity of these systems steadily increases. Wind and solar power still account for a small share of the overall power generation mix, but the growth of these energy sources continues to impress analysts and surpass expectations.

In addition to falling costs for solar panels and lower lifetime costs – in particular due to reduced financing costs – in both cases, relatively stable policies and regulations contribute to businesses feeling comfortable enough in making strategic decisions that lead to further renewable energy adoption.

The World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) recently released preliminary figures for the year 2014, which indicated a new record in wind power installations globally.

roman renewables growth 1Source: WWEA 

During the year 2014 over 50 Gigawatts (GW) of capacity were added. “The market volume for new wind capacity was 40% bigger than in 2013, and significantly bigger than in the previous record year 2012, when [about] 44,6 GW were installed,” the WWEA notes and adds that for “the first time since 2009, the speed of growth was bigger than in the previous year.” Globally installed wind capacity grew by approximately 15.6% vis-à-vis 12.45% recorded in 2013.

The following top twelve countries by total wind power installations alone account for over 87% of all total global capacity:

roman renewables growth 2

Source: WWEA 

Visit the WWEA website for The World Wind Energy Report 2014 including detailed statistics to be published in April 2015.

With regard to global solar PV installations, Joshua S. Hill of CleanTechnica cites data from Mercom Capital Group, which released predictions for 2015 while also providing updated numbers on global solar PV installations for 2014 – 47 GW with a year-on-year growth of about 24%.

roman renewables growth 3

Source: Mercom Capital Group via CleanTechnica 

It is against this backdrop and the record-breaking 2014 growth numbers for wind and solar PV installations globally that Meister Consultants Group, an international sustainability consulting firm, looked at both how much those renewables have actually grown over the last 15 years and how their growth stacks up against ‘expert’ predictions.

Meister Consultants find something very interesting: “Almost every one of these predictions [- i.e. from the IEA, EIA, and other -] has underestimated the scale of actual growth experienced by the wind and solar markets. Only the most aggressive growth projections, such as Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution scenarios, have been close to accurate.”

Check out below the respective charts created by Meister Consultants:

roman renewables growth 4

Source: Meister Consultants Group

Note, Meister Consultants attribute Greenpeace’s seeming accuracy to its ‘aggressive’ projections predicated on “drastic structural, policy, and business changes.”

See informative additional wind and solar PV growth projections for North America, the EU, and China here.

Lastly, another great chart shows projections for the percentage of global primary energy demand derived from all renewable energy sources ranging from 15% to 82% by 2050. Again, nobody really knows how the global energy mix will evolve into the future. Much will depend on whether the envisioned climate change mitigation as well as adaptation strategies take a bite out of global economic growth or not.

roman renewables growth 5

Source: Meister Consultants Group 

roman renewables growth 6

Isn’t it ironic that in the above chart in all likelihood both Greenpeace and ExxonMobil predicated their projections on much higher prices for crude oil than currently reflected in the marketplace? If the world were to remain stuck in the current ‘low oil price environment’ for the foreseeable future, Greenpeace would have no realistic chance to come even close to reaching its aggressive target. Others do not see any case in which medium- to long-term low oil prices will hurt renewables. This is debatable but may be relegated to a purely academic question because the most likely long-term scenario is still one informed by much higher oil prices. Note, there is little question that the global oil market will balance itself (supply-demand) with production cuts over time – reflected in higher future oil prices. It is the timing of those production cuts and related supply and market responses that remain in question.

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Math Geurts's picture
Math Geurts on Apr 3, 2015

“In its newly published Snapshot of Global PV Markets 2014, the IEA PVPS said preliminary market numbers showed that both IEA PVPS network countries as well as other major markets installed about 38.7 GW of global PV capacity last year, up from 37.6 GW in 2013″

38,7 GW is considerably less than 47 GW, which you mention!

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