Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth. Included in the definition is electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources.

By early 2010, more than 100 countries had some type of policy target and/or promotion policy related to renewable energy; this compares with 55 countries in early 2005. Wind power and solar PV additions reached a record high during 2009, and in both Europe and the United States, renewables accounted for over half of newly installed power capacity in 2009. More than $150 billion was invested in new renewable energy capacity and manufacturing plants—up from just $30 billion in 2004. For the second year in a row, more money was invested in new renewable energy capacity than in new fossil fuel capacity.

Renewable energy provides 19% of electricity generation worldwide with power generators in many forms spread across many countries. Wind power alone already provides a significant share of electricity in some countries: for example, 20% in Denmark. Some countries get most of their power from renewable sources, including Iceland and Paraguay (100%), Norway (98%), Brazil (86%), Austria (62%), New Zealand (65%), and Sweden (54%).

In international public opinion surveys there is strong support for promoting renewable sources such as solar power and wind power, requiring utilities to use more renewable energy (even if this increases the cost), and providing tax incentives to encourage the development and use of such technologies. There is substantial optimism that renewable energy investments will pay off economically in the long term.