Renewable energy is energy that is derived from natural processes (e.g. sunlight and wind) that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, bioenergy and ocean power are sources of renewable energy. The role of renewables continues to increase in the electricity, heating and cooling and transport sectors.

Any country can reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively

While wind and solar photovoltaic technologies are crucial to meeting our future energy needs, the inherent variability in both can raise concerns. "The Power of Transformation: Wind, Sun and the Economics of Flexible Power Systems" released by the IEA in 2014 addresses the additional costs that might arise from increased adoption and proposes strategies to develop a flexible system in the long term. Any country can reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively

Renewables to surpass gas by 2016 in global power mix

The 2013 IEA Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report sees renewable power as increasingly cost-competitive to new fossil-fuel generation despite difficult economic concerns, but agency warns against complacency. Renewables to surpass gas by 2016 in global power mix

Basking in the sun: emissions-free heat production

The 2014 IEA Featured Insight, Heating Without Global Warming: Market Developments and Policy Considerations for Renewable Heat explains that solutions to enhance the contribution of renewable heat abound and notes that important growth has been occurring in the last few years. Basking in the sun: emissions-free heat production

About renewable energy

Renewable energy technologies have significant deployment potential as resources are spread globally, in contrast to the conventional sources such as gas, coal and oil, which are more geographically concentrated. All countries in the world have at least one abundant renewable resource and many countries have a portfolio of resources.

The role of renewable energy is expected to increase significantly over time in all IEA scenarios with greater contributions to the power generation, heating & cooling and transport sectors.

Renewable energy technologies are a crucial part of a portfolio of options that are needed for achieving a secure and sustainable energy mix, together with energy efficiency and other low carbon options. A diversified portfolio of renewable energy can provide countries with a number of benefits that are not fully internalised in current energy market prices:

  • environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions and local pollutants;
  • energy security;
  • strategic economic development, including rural development, the agricultural sector and high-tech manufacturing;
  • energy access trough distributed or off-grid solutions. 

Against this backdrop, governments have put in place supportive policies. As a result, renewable sources have been the driver of much of the growth in the global clean energy sector since the year 2000. The role of renewable sources in the global power mix, in particular, continues to increase rapidly. On a percentage basis, renewables continue to be the fastest-growing power source. As global renewable electricity generation expands in absolute terms, it is expected to surpass that from natural gas and double that from nuclear power by 2016, becoming the second most important global electricity source, after coal. Globally, renewable generation is estimated to rise to 25% of gross power generation in 2018, up from 20% in 2011 as deployment spreads out globally.

 

Global renewable electricity production by region

IEA, (2013), Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2013, OECD/IEA, Paris.

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