Are Renewables Edging Out Coal/Nuclear?

With recent news indicating that both solar and wind power generation is on the the rise and looking stronger every year, it might be natural to wonder if renewable energy is dethroning fossil-fuel based electricity production. Greenpeace seems to think things are certainly moving that direction, but it notes in a new report that more must be done if renewable energy is to take over as the dominant method of generating power.

According to Greanpeace, the report presents an analysis of the global power plant market. In the report, the organization suggests that, since the 1990s, wind and solar power installations have grown at a faster rate than any other type of power plant technology. One of the report’s statistics shows that renewable energy power plants grew by 26%, compared with 9% for gas and 8% for coal. The report also suggests that  renewable energy saw significant enough expansion and considerably boosted its  market share in 2010, representing enough power generation capacity to power the equivalent of 1/3 of Europe.

image via ArizonaEnergy

One of the more interesting points presented contrasts wind power’s growth with nuclear power’s growth, noting that wind power added about 35,000 megawatts in 2010, achieving in one year what it took nuclear power 10 years to accomplish. Over the same ten year period,  new coal power plant installations experienced a decline. Greenpeace notes that one country, China, was responsible for 80% of the new coal power plants that were erected, though it is also noted that China shut down its dirtiest power plants and, as we’ve reported previously, has managed to set some serious wind power installation records, doubling its capacity every year for the past eight years and reaching a whopping 44.7 gigawatts of total capacity.

Though it would seem that renewable energy is making a strong play now, Greenpeace International Senior Renewable Energy Expert Sven Teske stated he believes governments will need to work to make sure things stay that way. “Governments need to ensure this trend continues, by championing the transition towards a 100% renewable energy supply”, Teske said. “In particular, North America and Europe need to take the lead on a faster deployment of new renewables, while retiring old coal power stations, if we are to achieve the reductions in emissions that are urgently required to save our climate”.

The full report can be downloaded here.