Green Nations: White Papers and Technological Innovations Are One Thing, but Implementation Is Another. So Which Countries Are Committed to Switching to Renewable Energy? (Renewable-Energy Special)

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Spain Ten years ago, Spain had virtually no renewable-energy capacity, but today it's a big success story for wind power, capable of producing just under 5,000 megawatts. It's home to Gamesa, the world's fourth-largest wind-turbine manufacturer, and BP Solar's main European manufacturing base. Assisted by high electricity tariffs and supportive governments, Spain's biomass and solar industries are also growing.

Germany The global leader for wind and solar power, with the biomass and fuel-cell industries close behind. Germany has more than 12,000MW of capacity--more than 5 per cent of the country's electricity. This is remarkable, given that its wind resources aren't the best in Europe. Its '100,000 solar roofs' programme has been a huge success and is ahead of target. Critical to the success has been a public and political consensus to support renewables and move away from nuclear power, and lucrative 'feed-in' tariffs that not only provide an attractive price for developers but ensure that the big utilities have to take the electricity.

Japan The Japanese are keen to reduce their dependence on oil and gas. And this will happen now that their utilities are required by law to take a proportion of energy from renewable sources. Their '70,000 solar roofs' programme is well advanced and they also have a small wind-power programme. Four Japanese companies are in the top-ten solar-cell producers.

USA Has the resources to be self-sufficient in renewable energy--in particular biomass, solar, wind and hydro--but a cheap-fuel policy and a political system heavily funded, and influenced, by fossil-fuel companies has slowed uptake. However, individual states have broken the pattern: Texas and Iowa are big successes on the wind front; California has a long-standing wind programme and solar energy is now getting significant support. A number of US companies are at the forefront of new biomass, fuel-cell and solar-cell developments.

Denmark A long-time pioneer of renewables, with strong political consensus over energy policy based on high prices, energy efficiency, combined heat and power plants and renewables. Almost ten per cent of the country's electricity comes from wind power, and there are plans to triple that. The country is home to three of the top six wind-turbine manufacturers; Vestas is number one, with 22 per cent of global market share. Offshore wind-power programmes are now set to take off and biomass systems using wood-chip heating and anaerobic digestion are also doing well.

Kenya As a poor country with little coherent policy or government financial support, Kenya is where necessity truly is the mother of invention. More than 30,000 solar photovoltaic systems are in use, driven by a serious power shortage and little access to electricity in rural areas. …