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Renewable energy in the 2010s - what’s changed in the last decade?

Denis Draia our consultant managing the role
Posted by Denis Draia
Published on 27 January 2020
2019 rounded off the end of the 2010s and according to the UK Energy in Brief report, this decade marks the first time in UK history that our total energy usage from renewable sources has exceeded gas. This increased usage can be attributed to both the environmentally-conscious population and improved government policies and funding – which had led to the years 2010-2019 being labelled as the decade of investment for renewable energy. Let’s look directly at what has changed within wind, solar, hydropower and bioenergy:

Wind kicked up a storm

Here’s a small timeline of the success of wind energy:

• 2013 - it took 4th place in the rankings for the most powerful generator of energy, and in doing so overtook nuclear

• 2014 - according to Wind Europe the capacity of wind installations surpassed gas and coal combined

• 2018 - 409 offshore wind turbines were installed in Europe alone.

This form of renewable energy is not only helping us keep our planet green, but Wind Europe reports that the sector has created 300,000 jobs across the continent. The UK government is committed to clean growth, so their focus is to expand modern industries using renewable energy. And this clean growth is helping to revitalise English seaside towns that have suffered for several decades following the closure of many ports during the post-industrial decline. Looking forward, over the coming decade the offshore wind sector anticipates they’ll need to hire a further 27,000 skilled workers.

Solar shone brighter than ever

According to the 2019 Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, the production of solar photovoltaic panels has reduced by 81% from 2010 to 2019. The report also shows that within this time frame the global expenditure on research and development for the wider renewable energy sector has increased by 10%, now totalling over £10 billion.

The drop in cost of solar energy is a result of increased demand at all points along the supply chain and this has allowed solar companies to benefit from economies of scale. The decade of investment has resulted in consumers paying 90% less for solar energy than they would have in 2010.

Hydropower made a splash

The last decade has seen a major boost in our global hydroelectric capacity. The Hydropower Status Report release by IHA shows that in 2018 a record-breaking 4,200 terawatt-hours of hydroelectricity was generated worldwide, saving 4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from being emitted. And the capacity will continue to grow as countries all around the world are investing in hydropower installation.

The IHA report confirms that China continues to lead the way in 2019, boosting their hydroelectricity capacity by 8,540 gigawatts due to many large hydropower projects. In just 10 years 13 major hydroelectric plants were completed in China, the largest and most significant being the £4.7 billion Xiluodu dam. While its renewable energy production sits in second place behind the Three Gorges Dam, the energy produced from this dam each year can power 552 billion lightbulbs.

Bioenergy lives on

The UK Energy in Brief report states that in 2017 bioenergy accounted for 66% of renewable energy usage and in the 2010-2018 period the UK’s proportion of energy supplied by bioenergy rose from 2.7% to 7%. Even more impressively, this figure jumped up to 11% in 2019. This low-carbon analysis recognises that the rise was enabled by the reduction in fossil fuels which dropped from 75% of the UK’s total energy production in 2010 to 43% in 2019 – a record low.

What does this mean for the renewable energy job market?

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported that in 2018 the sector had expanded to employ a staggering 11 million people worldwide and it’s expected that this trend will continue on an upward trajectory. There’s never been a more perfect time for jobseekers to capitalise on renewable energy growth thanks to the growing capacity of renewable energy and the suggested skills shortage.

Find your next job in renewable energy with Quanta

If you’re looking to take the next step in your renewable energy career Quanta can help. We’ve been placing candidates in renewable energy roles globally since 2002 and our success in the sector is what spurred us on to create the Quanta Renewable Energy division in 2007. Browse our latest jobs and apply today.