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The prospect of renewable energy –where will it stand in 40 years?

The prospect of renewable energy –where will it stand in 40 years?

In the early years of the new millennium, few people thought that the use of renewable energywould spread wide. Nobody imagined that eventually nearly a third of the global wind power capacity would come from developing countries, or that by 2011 70% of new power capacity across Europe would be renewable. Indeed, projections made for the use of renewable energy by 2020 were already met by 2010.

But would this trend go on for the foreseeable future? Let’s take a look at a recent report of potential renewable energy situations in the next few decades.

A global partnership
In January of this year, a global partnership of stakeholders led by REN21 released the result of its months-long research regarding the future of renewable energy use. REN21 is comprised of key players from governments, international organizations, industry associations, science and academia, and individual members of civil society whose aim is to promote the global use of renewable energy through facilitating exchange of information, policy development, and initiating joint actions.

The report was released after a two-year collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) and covers the following areas:

  • Current trends in renewable energy use
  • The challenges and possibilities of future renewable energy use
  • Economic issues covering investments and business models
  • Possibilities at the local/city level such as in urban planning and built-infrastructure, urban mobility, and 100% renewable communities
  • The evolution of technologies involved in renewable energy such as wind, solar PV, Solar Thermal Power (CSP), biomass, hydro, geothermal, ocean, and biofuels

From moderate to high outlooks
The report tackled 3 different levels of projection namely conservative, moderate, and high renewables. These projections were sourced from energy companies, scenarios, and experts in various fields.

The conservative outlook was based on projections by current energy companies who believe that the future will still be dominated by fossil fuels. Stating cost hurdles and variability challenges, the conservative outlook puts the share of renewable energy use at 20%, not much higher than it is today.

The moderate outlook on the other hand puts the share at between 30-45% by 2050. This projection, which includes shares in electricity, heating/cooling, and transport, was based on estimates of current trends and policies from experts. As well, various scenarios that factor in economic and political trends contributed to the overall projection. Much of the projection relies on the assumption that higher shares of renewable energy are integrated into power grids using various ways such as “demand-response, balancing with natural gas, new market structures for balancing services, and some energy storage.”

The high renewables outlook had a projection of 50-95% share for renewable energy use by 2050. This was based on scenarios projected not only by public advocacy organisations but also, surprisingly, of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA has previously published much lower projections, but the current need for renewable energy as well as changes in policy may have caused it to change their projections. Normally, high projections involve aggressive long-term policies as well as economic considerations such as the reduction of renewable energy costs.

The future of renewables
There is no doubt in the minds of the researchers that renewables will have a major share in energy use in the future, and this time it is no longer borne out of wishful thinking. The threat of climate change grows every day and the more we use fossil fuels the faster our planet deteriorates. Soon enough, there will be more devastating calamities that would force not just governments but fossil fuel companies as well to act. We could either wait for that to happen, or we could act now and create a better tomorrow for us all.

For more information about their report and to download a PDF copy of it, please visit REN21.


Guest Post by Cassandra Allen,Marketing Director of

Cassandra is a marketing professional with over 15 years of extensive experience leading corporate marketing and internal communications for multi-national companies in diverse industries

Author: Tom Jackson

I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.

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