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.

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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. The IEA Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2015 report sees the share of renewable energy in global power generation rising to over 26% by 2020 from 22% in 2013 – a remarkable shift in a very limited period of time. By 2020, the amount of global electricity generation coming from renewable energy will be higher than today’s combined electricity demand of China, India and Brazil.


Global renewable electricity production by region


IEA, (2015), Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2015, OECD/IEA, Paris.