Events at the Fukushima nuclear plant have renewed doubts about the ability to operate large numbers of nuclear plants safely over the long term. Further, cost estimates for "next generation" nuclear units continue to climb, and lenders are unwilling to finance these plants without taxpayer guarantees. The REN21 Global Status Report says that renewable energies are no longer just energy sources, but ways to address pressing social, political, economic and environmental problems:.
Today, renewables are seen not only as sources of energy, but also as tools to address many other pressing needs, including: improving energy security; reducing the health and environmental impacts associated with fossil and nuclear energy; mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; improving educational opportunities; creating jobs; reducing poverty; and increasing gender equality Renewables have entered the mainstream.
In for the first time, more renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in both the European Union and United States, demonstrating a "fundamental transition" of the world's energy markets towards renewables, according to a report released by REN21 , a global renewable energy policy network based in Paris.
Renewables producing electricity accounted for almost half of the GW of capacity added globally during During the five-years from the end of through , worldwide renewable energy capacity grew at rates of 10—60 percent annually for many technologies, while actual production grew 1. The combination of government target-setting, policy support and stimulus funds is underpinning the renewable industry's rise and bringing the much needed transformation of our global energy system within reach. In doing so, they are making an increasing contribution to combating climate change, countering energy poverty and energy insecurity".
According to a projection by the International Energy Agency, solar power plants may produce most of the world's electricity within 50 years, significantly reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment. The IEA has said: "Photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants may meet most of the world's demand for electricity by — and half of all energy needs — with wind, hydropower and biomass plants supplying much of the remaining generation". In , China led the world in renewable energy production, with a total capacity of GW , mainly from hydroelectric and wind power.
As of , China leads the world in the production and use of wind power, solar photovoltaic power and smart grid technologies, generating almost as much water, wind and solar energy as all of France and Germany's power plants combined. China's renewable energy sector is growing faster than its fossil fuels and nuclear power capacity. Since , production of solar cells in China has expanded fold. As Chinese renewable manufacturing has grown, the costs of renewable energy technologies have dropped.
Innovation has helped, but the main driver of reduced costs has been market expansion. See also renewable energy in the United States for US-figures. Renewable energy technologies are getting cheaper, through technological change and through the benefits of mass production and market competition. A IEA report said: "A portfolio of renewable energy technologies is becoming cost-competitive in an increasingly broad range of circumstances, in some cases providing investment opportunities without the need for specific economic support," and added that "cost reductions in critical technologies, such as wind and solar, are set to continue.
The price of PV modules per MW has fallen by 60 percent since the summer of , according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates, putting solar power for the first time on a competitive footing with the retail price of electricity in a number of sunny countries. Wind turbine prices have also fallen — by 18 percent per MW in the last two years — reflecting, as with solar, fierce competition in the supply chain.
Further improvements in the levelised cost of energy for solar, wind and other technologies lie ahead, posing a growing threat to the dominance of fossil fuel generation sources in the next few years. Hydro-electricity and geothermal electricity produced at favourable sites are now the cheapest way to generate electricity.
Renewable energy costs continue to drop, and the levelised cost of electricity LCOE is declining for wind power, solar photovoltaic PV , concentrated solar power CSP and some biomass technologies. Renewable energy is also the most economic solution for new grid-connected capacity in areas with good resources. As the cost of renewable power falls, the scope of economically viable applications increases. Renewable technologies are now often the most economic solution for new generating capacity.
Where "oil-fired generation is the predominant power generation source e. Renewable energy includes a number of sources and technologies at different stages of commercialization. First-generation technologies are widely used in locations with abundant resources. Their future use depends on the exploration of the remaining resource potential, particularly in developing countries, and on overcoming challenges related to the environment and social acceptance. Biomass for heat and power is a fully mature technology which offers a ready disposal mechanism for municipal, agricultural, and industrial organic wastes.
However, the industry has remained relatively stagnant over the decade to , even though demand for biomass mostly wood continues to grow in many developing countries. One of the problems of biomass is that material directly combusted in cook stoves produces pollutants, leading to severe health and environmental consequences, although improved cook stove programmes are alleviating some of these effects. First-generation biomass technologies can be economically competitive, but may still require deployment support to overcome public acceptance and small-scale issues.
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower ; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. In hydropower generated Hydroelectric plants have the advantage of being long-lived and many existing plants have operated for more than years. Hydropower is produced in countries, with the Asia-Pacific region generating 32 percent of global hydropower in China is the largest hydroelectricity producer, with terawatt-hours of production in , representing around 17 percent of domestic electricity use.
The average cost of electricity from a hydro plant larger than 10 megawatts is 3 to 5 U. Estimates for the world potential capacity for geothermal power generation vary widely, ranging from 40 GW by to as much as 6, GW. Geothermal power capacity grew from around 1 GW in to almost 10 GW in Other countries with significant installed capacity include the Philippines 1. Geothermal ground source heat pumps represented an estimated 30 GWth of installed capacity at the end of , with other direct uses of geothermal heat i. As of [update] , at least 76 countries use direct geothermal energy in some form.
Second-generation technologies have gone from being a passion for the dedicated few to a major economic sector in countries such as Germany, Spain, the United States, and Japan. Many large industrial companies and financial institutions are involved and the challenge is to broaden the market base for continued growth worldwide.
Solar heating systems are a well known second-generation technology and generally consist of solar thermal collectors , a fluid system to move the heat from the collector to its point of usage, and a reservoir or tank for heat storage.
The systems may be used to heat domestic hot water, swimming pools, or homes and businesses. As of [update] , China has 27 million rooftop solar water heaters. Photovoltaic PV cells, also called solar cells , convert light into electricity. In the s and early s, most photovoltaic modules were used to provide remote-area power supply , but from around , industry efforts have focused increasingly on developing building integrated photovoltaics and photovoltaic power stations for grid connected applications. Many solar photovoltaic power stations have been built, mainly in Europe.
Renewable energy commercialization
There are also many large plants under construction. Many of these plants are integrated with agriculture and some use innovative tracking systems that follow the sun's daily path across the sky to generate more electricity than conventional fixed-mounted systems. There are no fuel costs or emissions during operation of the power stations. Some of the second-generation renewables, such as wind power, have high potential and have already realised relatively low production costs. China now has 42, MW of wind power installed. At the end of South Australia, with 7. Wind power's share of worldwide electricity usage at the end of was 3.
As of , the wind industry in the USA is able to produce more power at lower cost by using taller wind turbines with longer blades, capturing the faster winds at higher elevations. This has opened up new opportunities and in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, the price of power from wind turbines built feet to feet above the ground can now compete with conventional fossil fuels like coal. Prices have fallen to about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour in some cases and utilities have been increasing the amount of wind energy in their portfolio, saying it is their cheapest option.
The MW Ivanpah Solar Power Facility , located in California's Mojave Desert , is the world's largest solar-thermal power plant project currently under construction. Biofuels provide 1. Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programs in the world, involving production of ethanol fuel from sugar cane , and ethanol now provides 18 percent of the country's automotive fuel. As a result of this and the exploitation of domestic deep water oil sources, Brazil, which for years had to import a large share of the petroleum needed for domestic consumption, recently reached complete self-sufficiency in liquid fuels.
Nearly all the gasoline sold in the United States today is mixed with 10 percent ethanol, a mix known as E10,  and motor vehicle manufacturers already produce vehicles designed to run on much higher ethanol blends. The challenge is to expand the market for biofuels beyond the farm states where they have been most popular to date.
The Energy Policy Act of , which calls for 7. The growing ethanol and biodiesel industries are providing jobs in plant construction, operations, and maintenance, mostly in rural communities.
International Journal of Renewable Energy Research (IJRER)
According to the Renewable Fuels Association, "the ethanol industry created almost , U. Third-generation renewable energy technologies are still under development and include advanced biomass gasification , biorefinery technologies, hot-dry-rock geothermal power, and ocean energy. Third-generation technologies are not yet widely demonstrated or have limited commercialization.
Many are on the horizon and may have potential comparable to other renewable energy technologies, but still depend on attracting sufficient attention and research and development funding. According to the International Energy Agency, cellulosic ethanol biorefineries could allow biofuels to play a much bigger role in the future than organizations such as the IEA previously thought. Crop residues such as corn stalks , wheat straw and rice straw , wood waste, and municipal solid waste are potential sources of cellulosic biomass.
Dedicated energy crops, such as switchgrass , are also promising cellulose sources that can be sustainably produced in many regions. Ocean energy is all forms of renewable energy derived from the sea including wave energy, tidal energy, river current, ocean current energy, offshore wind, salinity gradient energy and ocean thermal gradient energy. The facility is located on the estuary of the Rance River , in Brittany , France. First proposed more than thirty years ago, systems to harvest utility-scale electrical power from ocean waves have recently been gaining momentum as a viable technology.
The potential for this technology is considered promising, especially on west-facing coasts with latitudes between 40 and 60 degrees: . Across Europe, the technologically achievable resource has been estimated to be at least TWh per year. In , the U. There are currently nine projects, completed or in-development, off the coasts of the United Kingdom, United States, Spain and Australia to harness the rise and fall of waves by Ocean Power Technologies. The current maximum power output is 1.
As of [update] , geothermal power development was under way in more than 40 countries, partially attributable to the development of new technologies, such as Enhanced Geothermal Systems. Beyond the already established solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power technologies are such advanced solar concepts as the solar updraft tower or space-based solar power. These concepts have yet to if ever be commercialized. The Solar updraft tower SUT is a renewable-energy power plant for generating electricity from low temperature solar heat. Sunshine heats the air beneath a very wide greenhouse-like roofed collector structure surrounding the central base of a very tall chimney tower.
The resulting convection causes a hot air updraft in the tower by the chimney effect. This airflow drives wind turbines placed in the chimney updraft or around the chimney base to produce electricity. Plans for scaled-up versions of demonstration models will allow significant power generation, and may allow development of other applications, such as water extraction or distillation, and agriculture or horticulture.
A more advanced version of a similarly themed technology is the Vortex engine AVE which aims to replace large physical chimneys with a vortex of air created by a shorter, less-expensive structure. Space-based solar power SBSP is the concept of collecting solar power in space using an "SPS", that is, a "solar-power satellite" or a "satellite power system" for use on Earth.
It has been in research since the early s. SBSP would differ from current solar collection methods in that the means used to collect energy would reside on an orbiting satellite instead of on Earth's surface. Some projected benefits of such a system are a higher collection rate and a longer collection period due to the lack of a diffusing atmosphere and night time in space.
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As of [update] , Vestas from Denmark is the world's top wind turbine manufacturer in terms of percentage of market volume, and Sinovel from China is in second place. Together Vestas and Sinovel delivered 10, MW of new wind power capacity in , and their market share was German Enercon ranks fifth in the world, and is followed in sixth place by Indian-based Suzlon. The solar PV market has been growing for the past few years.
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The top 5 solar module companies possessed The PV industry has seen drops in module prices since These reductions have taken many stakeholders, including industry analysts, by surprise, and perceptions of current solar power economics often lags behind reality. Some stakeholders still have the perspective that solar PV remains too costly on an unsubsidized basis to compete with conventional generation options.
Yet technological advancements, manufacturing process improvements, and industry re-structuring, mean that further price reductions are likely in coming years. Many energy markets, institutions, and policies have been developed to support the production and use of fossil fuels. Intentional market distortions such as subsidies , and unintentional market distortions such as split incentives may work against renewables.
Sovacool has argued that "some of the most surreptitious, yet powerful, impediments facing renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States are more about culture and institutions than engineering and science". The obstacles to the widespread commercialization of renewable energy technologies are primarily political, not technical,  and there have been many studies which have identified a range of "non-technical barriers" to renewable energy use.
Key barriers include:  . Technologies that do not easily fit into these networks may struggle to enter the market, even if the technology itself is commercially viable. This applies to distributed generation as most grids are not suited to receive electricity from many small sources.
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Large-scale renewables may also encounter problems if they are sited in areas far from existing grids. With such a wide range of non-technical barriers, there is no "silver bullet" solution to drive the transition to renewable energy. So ideally there is a need for several different types of policy instruments to complement each other and overcome different types of barriers. A policy framework must be created that will level the playing field and redress the imbalance of traditional approaches associated with fossil fuels.
The policy landscape must keep pace with broad trends within the energy sector, as well as reflecting specific social, economic and environmental priorities. Public policy has a role to play in renewable energy commercialization because the free market system has some fundamental limitations. As the Stern Review points out:.
In a liberalised energy market, investors, operators and consumers should face the full cost of their decisions. But this is not the case in many economies or energy sectors.
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Many policies distort the market in favour of existing fossil fuel technologies. The International Solar Energy Society has stated that "historical incentives for the conventional energy resources continue even today to bias markets by burying many of the real societal costs of their use". Fossil-fuel energy systems have different production, transmission, and end-use costs and characteristics than do renewable energy systems, and new promotional policies are needed to ensure that renewable systems develop as quickly and broadly as is socially desirable.
Lester Brown states that the market "does not incorporate the indirect costs of providing goods or services into prices, it does not value nature's services adequately, and it does not respect the sustainable-yield thresholds of natural systems". Tax shifting has been widely discussed and endorsed by economists. It involves lowering income taxes while raising levies on environmentally destructive activities, in order to create a more responsive market.
For example, a tax on coal that included the increased health care costs associated with breathing polluted air, the costs of acid rain damage, and the costs of climate disruption would encourage investment in renewable technologies. Several Western European countries are already shifting taxes in a process known there as environmental tax reform. Asia's two leading economies, Japan and China, are considering carbon taxes. Just as there is a need for tax shifting, there is also a need for subsidy shifting.
Subsidies are not an inherently bad thing as many technologies and industries emerged through government subsidy schemes. And the combination of the federal tax deduction and a robust state tax deduction in California helped to create the modern wind power industry. Lester Brown has argued that "a world facing the prospect of economically disruptive climate change can no longer justify subsidies to expand the burning of coal and oil.
Shifting these subsidies to the development of climate-benign energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal power is the key to stabilizing the earth's climate. Some countries are eliminating or reducing climate-disrupting subsidies and Belgium, France, and Japan have phased out all subsidies for coal. Germany is reducing its coal subsidy. In November , an IEA report entitled Deploying Renewables said "subsidies in green energy technologies that were not yet competitive are justified in order to give an incentive to investing into technologies with clear environmental and energy security benefits".
The IEA's report disagreed with claims that renewable energy technologies are only viable through costly subsidies and not able to produce energy reliably to meet demand. A fair and efficient imposition of subsidies for renewable energies and aiming at sustainable development, however, require coordination and regulation at a global level, as subsidies granted in one country can easily disrupt industries and policies of others, thus underlining the relevance of this issue at the World Trade Organization.
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This technology offers a high kWp installed per square feet and therefore, it has greater energy yield potential. On the other hand, the building sector also has the highest potential for energy efficiency. With rising demand for fossil fuels coupled with uncertainty over the availability of fossil fuels in the future, rising concerns over energy security both for general supply and specific needs of facilities , and the potential that buildup of greenhouse gases may be causing undesirable impacts on the global climate, it is essential to find ways to reduce load, increase efficiency, and utilize renewable energy resources in all types of facilities.
During a building's design and development, apply a comprehensive, integrated approach to the process, to:. Photo Credit: Nancy Rottle. A deep energy retrofit is a whole-building analysis and construction process that achieves much larger energy cost savings than those of simpler energy retrofits such as upgrading lighting and HVAC equipment. In taking a whole-building approach, deep energy retrofits address many systems at once by combining energy efficient measures such as energy-efficient equipment, air sealing, moisture management, controlled ventilation, insulation, and solar control.
Energy independence and security are important components of national security and energy strategies. Today, power is mostly generated by massive centralized plants, and electricity moves along transmission lines. Energy independence can be achieved, in part, by minimizing energy consumption through energy conservation, energy efficiency, and by generating energy from local, renewable sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, etc.
Cyber criminals can access these systems to disable controls disrupt energy and water systems and even destroy equipment. Ensure these systems are protected from these intrusions by employing cyber security measures. The U.