The global renewable energy sector grew in 2008 as power capacity and new investments both jumped 16 percent last year and for the first time ever, more renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in the European Union and United States, two of the world’s major economies.

Power capacity from clean energy sources (excluding large hydro) reached 280,000 megawatts in 2008, up from 240,000 MW in 2007, according to the annual report of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) released this week.The increase is nearly three times the capacity of the nuclear sector in the United States.

New investment in the renewable energy sector last year reached $120 billion, up 16 percent over 2007, the report also said.

The recent growth of the sector has surpassed all predictions, even those made by the industry itself, said Mohamed El-Ashry, chairman of REN21, a global policy network which promotes renewable energy expansion, in a statement.

The implementation of new energy policies to address climate change and energy security by several governments and the allocation of stimulus packages in the sector to generate green jobs had a direct impact on the industry, the report said.

In the United States, President Barack Obama proposed $150 billion in federal spending on renewable energy technologies over 10 years and an additional $43 billion in an economic stimulus package.

During 2008, China and India advanced significantly in clean energy technology. For the fourth straight year, China continued to increase its total wind capacity 100 percent while India emerged as a strong manufacturer of solar photovoltaic technologies with $18 billion in new manufacturing investments or proposals.