2.7 The Current Situation of Renewable Energy



2.7 The Current Situation of Renewable Energy

Since 1973, which can be considered as the starting point of political and financial support for research and development into clean energy, renewable energies have undergone a profound transformation such that they are now a feasible source of energy for many services. Despite this and a strong annual energy production increase from renewable resources, market penetration remains low as it supplies a very small proportion of the global energy demand which has grown in the same period.

Currently, renewable energies supply approximately 13.5% (1,352 MegaTons in Petroleum Equivalent) of the total energy demanded, including commercial and traditional, biomass energy sources. Most of the 13.5% corresponds to the traditional use of biomass (for heating and cooking) and to the production of electricity from large scale hydropower dams. It is for this reason that the proportion of renewable energy in a given region is directly related to poverty levels; in Africa, 50% of its energy mix is from renewable sources.

The increase in energy coming from renewable sources has also grown noticeably in wealthy countries during the last decade. However; if renewable supplies are analysed with respect to the total global energy supplied; the percentage of renewable energy supplied has in fact diminished.

Despite this however, predicted market penetration of renewables remains at a moderate level. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts, in a best case scenario, that if further policies to increase the levels of renewable power were implemented that 8.6% of the commercial energy market would be gained by 2020 (2% in 1990), excluding hydropower.

The reasons for this continued, moderately low market penetration are many. Diffusion of new technologies requires time, especially in the energy sector; the transition from coal to petroleum based power generation took many decades.

Furthermore, subsidies for fossil fuels, whether transparent or hidden, slow the progress of renewables towards becoming a competitive alternative. Attempts to externalise energy system costs (i.e. including costs associated with environmental damage and repair originating from the use of fossil fuels in the direct fuel costs) have also not been put into practice.

Source: Aguilera et al [see reference 3]