• UK renewables
• US renewables
• European renewables
• Japanese renewables
Renewable energy technology has developed rapidly in recent years and it is being used widely around the world. This chapter explores the state of play so far, focusing on developments in the USA, Europe and Japan, and looks at the reasons why some countries are urgently pushing ahead with renewables.
The use of renewable energy is not new. As we noted earlier, biomass in the form of firewood still represents the main fuel source for many of the world’s people and conventional large-scale hydroelectric generation is a major existing use of a renewable energy source. However, wood fuel is becoming increasingly scarce and given the high capital cost of large hydro projects and, in some cases, major environmental impacts of such schemes, there has been growing interest in smaller scale hydro plants around the world.
Of the ‘new’ renewables, the use of solar energy for space and water heating obviously has attractions in many countries. There are major projects underway in the USA and elsewhere for electricity production, either using solar heat to raise steam, or using sunlight to power photovoltaic cells. However, in terms of electricity production, it has been wind power that has made the biggest impact: by the mid-1990s there were more than 20,000 wind turbines installed around the world.