Renewable Energy has a Long History
Renewable energy generation has been around for a very long time. Initially this was primarily in the form of using water power to drive water mills and wind power to drive windmills. These forms of power were mostly superseded first by steam engines and then by engines which burnt fossil fuels to generate power. Once the large scale generation of electricity began the use of renewable energy made a comeback in the form of hydroelectric power plants. For countries with suitable geography hydroelectric power provided a cheap and relatively reliable method of electricity generation.
In 1980 21.5% of electricity was generated by hydroelectric power plants, with just under 70% being generated by conventional thermal power plants, mainly burning coal, oil or gas, and 8.5% was generated by nuclear power plants. Other forms of renewable energy generation only accounted for 0.4% of the total. Since then renewable energy has been gathering a much higher profile as the issue of climate change has grown, and also in response to rising fossil fuel prices and worries about security of supply. As a result at a global level non hydro renewable energy generation now accounts for almost 2.5% of the world total. However, strong growth in electricity generation coupled with a lack of suitable new hydroelectric sites means that hydroelectric’s share of global electricity generation has fallen to under 17%. Nuclear power’s share has risen to 14.5% and conventional thermal is slightly lower at around 66%.