Clean energy: the facts

7 April 2011

The International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Progress Report was launched in April 2011. Here are some of the key findings:

Coal and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

  • Coal currently provides 40% of the world’s electricity needs.
  • The majority of coal-fired generation power plants in China are less that 10-years-old, while in the US and Europe most of the power plants are between 30 and 40–years-old.
  • There are 79 operational or planned large-scale Carbon Capture and Storage projects worldwide. North America (with 39 projects) and Europe (with 21 projects) lead the way.
  • To meet global climate change goals at lowest cost, extensive deployment of CCS is critical: around 100 large-scale CCS projects are needed by 2020, and over 3 000 by 2050. While there are over 70 projects currently planned, it is uncertain how many of them will be realised.

Renewable heat and electricity

  • Over the past five years, wind power has averaged an annual growth rate of over 25%, while solar PV has grown at over 50% annually. (PV systems directly convert solar energy into electricity using a PV cell; this is a semiconductor device that converts solar energy into electricity).
  • Despite this good news, worldwide renewable electricity generation since 1990 grew an average of 2.7% per year, which is less than the 3% growth seen for total electricity generation. While 19.5% of global electricity in 1990 was produced from renewable sources, this share fell to 18.5% in 2008.
  • Global wind power capacity was 195 gigawatts at the end of 2010 which, with current typical usage rates, would be enough to cover electricity needs for 30% of all residential homes in the US.
  • In 2010, China overtook the US for the first time as the global leader in installed wind power capacity, with a total 42 gigawatts.
  • Wind power currently provides only 1% of China’s electricity. This is approximately what the Chinese railway system consumes in a year.
  • Nearly 10 gigawatts of wind power were added within Europe in 2010.
  • The global total of solar PV was roughly 40 gigawatts at the end of 2010. This would be the equivalent of 29% of Germany’s total electricity generating capacity
  • China doubled its installed hydropower capacity between 2005 and 2009 to nearly 200 gigawatts.

Biofuel for transport

  • Global biofuel production grew from 16 billion litres in 2000, to more than 100 billion litres in 2010. This biofuel provides around 3% of the world’s fuel for transport. (In Brazil, biofuel provides 21% of all transport fuel, compared with 4% in the US and 3% in the European Union).
  • The US currently leads spending on biofuels public research, development and demonstration projects, with USD 189 million in 2010. On a per capita basis, this represents 60 cents per person per year in 2010.

Electric Vehicles and Vehicle Efficiency

  • 30 Electric Vehicle (EV) models were available on the global market at the end of 2010. An addition 40 models are expected in 2011, and 40 more in 2012.
  • Global sales targets for Electric Vehicles add up to 7 million by 2020.
  • The average fuel economy of vehicles with internal combustion engines (i.e. how efficient they are in terms of fuel consumption), was estimated to be 8.1 litres per 100 km in 2005, improving to 7.7 litres per km by 2008.
  • Public research, development and demonstration spending on energy efficiency programmes for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles increased from USD 340 million in 2003 to USD 1.6 billion in 2010.

Nuclear Power

  • 27 nuclear reactors are currently under construction in China, compared with 11 in Russia, 5 in India and 5 in the Republic of Korea.
  • The amount of nuclear capacity installed throughout the world at the end of 2010 was 375 gigawatts.

Energy Efficiency

  • Between 2000 and 2007, the average growth rate in sales of compact fluorescent lamps (a type of energy efficient light bulb) was 34% in IEA member countries, 22% in China, 235 in Latin America, 33% in Eastern Europe and 26% in Asia Pacific.
  • 1 billion compact florescent lamps were sold in China in 2007.
  • Overall, global energy intensity (a measure of total primary energy use per unit of gross domestic product) in the manufacturing industry has decreased 1.3% per year since 2005.