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Global leaders in renewable energy: Who are the major players?

Kriss Ford our consultant managing the role
Posted by Kriss Ford
Published on 2 July 2018

The last few decades have seen huge growth in the burgeoning renewables market. Since the invention of the wind turbine in the late 1800s, the world has been starting to make a shift towards a low-carbon economy, and a huge part of achieving this lies in changing the way in which we produce and use energy. Today, renewables is a booming industry, producing 17% of the EU’s energy supply in 2016 and expected to grow by 40% globally by 2020.

Not only is the renewable energy market extremely lucrative, but it also holds huge potential for the future. It’s no surprise, therefore, that countries are starting to turn their attention to innovating within this sector, and in investing more in renewables than ever before.

Let’s take a look at some of the world leaders.


Though China might typically be viewed as a nation that is fond of coal, it’s become a growth leader in renewables in a remarkably short space of time. It’s already surpassed its 2020 solar panel targetafter having invested $86.5bn into the industry last year, and is expected to do the same for its wind power target in 2019. With multiple huge solar farms, and more solar projects scheduled for the coming years, China is indisputably a global leader in solar energy, and is fast catching up with hydropower, too, investing in new billion-pound projects in places like Nigeria as well as in China itself. With China innovating at lightning speed, it’s clear that growth in this area is likely to continue for quite some time, providing engineers with a healthy source of jobs for decades to come.


When it comes to wind energy, the UK has no equal. Heavy previous investment in the renewables sector has resulted in falling prices, which in turn has led to a boom in energy production across the country, allowing wind and solar energy to overtake nuclear as the main source of nuclear energy for the first time ever. This year, renewables have accounted for 29% of electricity generated in the UK, and offshore wind is also seeing growth, with several projects greenlit off the Irish Sea and Sussex coastline expected to boost wind energy to supply 10% of national demand by 2020.

As for tidal energy, the outlook is bright for the country’s 11,000 miles of coastline, with a number of projects such as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon- the first of its kind- also breaking ground this year.


Though a relative newcomer to the renewables market, India has already started to make its mark on the sector. Last year, the country added more capacity to its energy network from renewables than from coal stations. Furthermore, the government is pushing hard to force its major companies to increase the renewable energy they use to 21% by 2022, falling in line with a renewable energy target of producing 227,000MW by 2022. Today, it’s overtaken the European Union in the growth of its renewables sector.

This all spells good news for the industry, with investment in wind and solar panels increasing 47% last year: solar has become big business in India, with the world’s largest solar park opening in Karnataka in March, and several more greenlit for development. This, alongside surprising growth in the waste-to-energy sector, points to a bright and innovative future for India as a leader in renewables.


Perhaps surprisingly, the USA still remains a world leader in renewables, making up the second-largest market for green energy after China. Despite Donald Trump’s pledge to withdraw the country from the Paris Agreement, renewable companies are taking advantage of federal tax incentives and the sector is currently growing, with the American Council on Renewable Energy announcing the launch of a new campaign to encourage $1tn of private sector investment in renewables by 2030.

Alongside a dip in natural gas generation, wind, solar and hydroelectric has soared in popularity to double in size across the States, as coal has crashed from 48% to 30% since 2008 in comparison. Indeed, solar and wind projects made up 62% of new power construction in 2017, and this trend doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon: after all, the solar and wind sectors are creating jobs faster than the rest of the economy. For the time being, the outlook in the US looks bright.

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