How can we design an energy system that improves the quality of life of those who use it? In an event last Thursday entitled Policy Briefing: The Present and Future of Renewables in the United States and Around the World, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) pointed out that this is the type of question that we should be asking.
While the event highlighted the growth of renewable energy and its future prospects all over the world, Rep. Holt emphasized what he sees as the lack of urgency in deploying the amount of renewables and clean energy needed to really address climate change. He added, “We are losing track in this country [and] we have lost track here in Congress that about now we are barreling past 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere … and that is not driving our energy policy and it should.”
During her presentation on the forthcoming Renewables 2013 Global Status Report (GSR 2013), Renewable Energy Policy Network of the 21st Century (REN21) Executive Secretary Christine Lins shared some good news on the current status of energy policy globally: the number of countries that have renewable energy targets has doubled since 2005 and now includes 120 countries – more than half of which are developing countries.
The GSR 2013 will be published in June, and Lins presented some of the main insights from it, including:
- Renewable energy makes up 18% of global final energy consumption
- 25% of global power generation capacity comes from renewable energy
- Cumulative installed capacity of solar photovoltaics (PV) has reached 101 gigawatts (GW), including 30 GW added in 2012
- Solar PV module prices fell 40% in 2011 and another 20% in 2012
- Cumulative installed wind capacity reached 282 GW, including 40 GW added in 2012
The event not only reviewed the current status of renewable energy, but also looked to the future with a presentation by Eric Martinot on the Renewables Global Futures Report (RGFR). Martinot, who authored the report, interviewed 170 leading experts and analyzed current renewable energy projections to provide an outlook on the future of renewable energy.
There were three main takeaways from Martinot’s presentation on the RGFR:
- Most industry experts (interviewed by Martinot) believe that shares of renewable energy could reach at least 30-50% in the long term – showing that conservative projections that predict renewable energy shares of less than 20% out to 2040, like those from ExxonMobil, are no longer credible
- Renewable energy investment is expected to nearly double by 2020, though many experts agree that higher levels of investment will require new investors and equity sources, such as oil companies, aggregated securities funds, pension funds, insurance funds, etc.
- In the transition to greater levels of renewable energy, there will be opportunities for companies other than manufacturers and installers of renewable energy products, including electric power utilities, automakers, oil companies, IT companies and building materials manufacturers
Both the GSR 2013 and the RGFR offered insights into the renewable energy sector, showing positive trends in renewable energy deployment and investment. But, as Rep. Holt said, this growth and the policies that are driving it must be coordinated with our overall climate goals to ensure that it’s enough to drastically reduce our emissions.
If we can do this, we will be able to address climate change in a meaningful way while also improving the quality of life for people around the world.