A UN-backed study has reported that the building of new renewable energy plants has overtaken fossil fuel power plants in Europe and the US. The report charts construction from last year and states that renewables accounted for 60 percent of new electricity generation capacity in Europe. In the US, green power accounted for more than half of new generation capacity that was constructed in 2009.

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The report, produced by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), stated that green power was at a clear tipping point, with forms of renewable energy now “comprising one-quarter of total global power capacity and delivering 18 percent of the world’s electricity supply in 2009.” Speaking to the BBC, the authors said that last year was “unprecedented in the history of renewable energy, despite the headwinds posed by the global financial crisis, lower oil prices and slow progress with climate policy”. Not just that — in both the US and Europe, green energy has shown the potential to create whole new industries “and millions of new jobs.”

The report also stated that it wasn’t just fully-developed countries that had embraced renewable energy — China, a heavily industrialized country, has added 37 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity to their power grid. That’s more than any other nation on the planet. China is the clear leader is solar panel production, manufacturing 40 percent of the world’s photovoltaic cells, and China also builds 30 percent of the world’s wind turbines.

Investment in renewable energy has also increased, with $162 billion pumped into the industry in 2009. However, this is was down seven percent from the record high of $173 billion invested during 2008. The reduction has been attributed to the global recession, although the authors say that there was still record levels of investment in wind power — especially in China and in the North Sea. Despite the positive increase in investment, the report did warn that there is still a lot way to go if Europe is to meet its target of getting 20 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020.