The headline of an article in LA Times declares, “Renewable power trumps fossil fuels for first time.” No, it is not that more electric power is being generated from renewable sources than from fossil energy. The article is talking about investments in power systems, and according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in 2010 more dollars were invested renewable electric power systems than in coal-, gas-, and oil-fired plants; $187 billion versus $157 billion.
The accelerated pace of investing in renewable power is good news, particularly when we realize how far we have to go. However, it is also worth asking what did we buy with those investments. This article does not answer that except mentioning towards the end that 36 GW of wind capacity was added 2010. It turns out that globally about 92 GW of renewable energy capacity was installed renewables; 30 GW of large hydro, 17 GW of PV, a smaller amounts of solar thermal and geothermal systems. The world also added a comparable capacity of coal- and gas-fired plants in 2010. China alone added 80 GW of coal and India added about 20 GW. Because of their higher availability factor, they are expected to provide two to three times more electrical energy for the comparably sized fleet of renewables.