Solar generation surged past wind to become the renewable energy technology of choice for global investors in 2011.
Solar attracted nearly twice as much investment as wind, driving the renewable energy sector to yet another record-breaking year, albeit one beset with challenges for the industry, according to two new reports on renewable energy trends issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).
In 2011 total investment in renewable power and fuels increased by 17% to a record $257 billion. A six-fold increase on the 2004 figure and 94% higher than the total in 2007, the year before the world financial crisis.
In the power sector, renewables accounted for almost half of the estimated 208 gigawatts (GW) of electric capacity added globally during the year. Wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) accounted for almost 40% and 30% of new renewable capacity, respectively, followed by hydropower (nearly 25%).
By the end of 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide supplied an estimated 20.3% of global electricity.
At least 118 countries, more than half of which are developing countries, had renewable energy targets in place by early 2012.
Solar hot water collectors are used by more than 200 million households as well as in many public and commercial buildings worldwide.