Renewable energies ‘gaining ground by every measure’

9 February 2017

Technological and policy innovations are driving down costs and spurring the deployment of renewable energy technology, according to a report.

The International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) REthinking Energy report found global investment in renewables has steadily grown for more than a decade, rising from less than $50bn in 2004 to a record $348bn in 2015.

“Renewables are gaining ground by nearly every measure,” said IRENA director general Adnan Z. Amin.

“Accelerating the pace of the energy transition and expanding its scope beyond the power sector will not only reduce carbon emissions, it will improve lives, create jobs, achieve development goals, and ensure a cleaner and more prosperous future.”

The report highlights how current investment and deployment levels are making headway to meet international carbon reduction targets.

Amin said: “We are seeing more and more countries hold auctions to deploy renewables, and as variable and distributed sources of renewables take on a greater role, regulators have implemented changes to enable grid integration at scale.”

He identified heating and cooling and developing renewables for transport as areas where future efforts are needed.

The report also said renewable energy auctions were gaining popularity in developed and developing countries, generating record-breaking low energy prices.

Meanwhile, new financial instruments are helping increase investment and institutional investors are being attracted by renewable energy’s stable returns over the long term. New business models are also promising novel ways to finance renewable energy, the report said.

Solar photovoltaic systems will be the fastest growing technology in terms of capacity and output, while new ways to store electricity will be a “game changer” for renewable energy generation. Battery storage could increase from less than one gigawatt today to 250 gigawatts by 2030.

Off-grid renewables currently provide electricity to an estimated 90m people worldwide.

“Achieving universal electricity access by 2030 [a UN Sustainable Development Goal] will require us to boost global power generation –nearly 60% of that will have to come from standalone and mini-grid solutions,” said Amin. “Meeting this aim with off-grid renewables depends on the right combination of policies, financing, technology and institutional capacity.”

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