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, hydro, and biomass are common sources of renewable energy.
Renewable sources of energy have been the driver of much of the growth in the global clean energy sector since the year 2000. Recent years have seen a major scale‐up of wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies. Other renewable technologies – including hydropower, geothermal and biomass – continued to grow from a strong established base, adding hundreds of Gigawatts of new capacity worldwide.
Success of wind and solar PV has been driven by policy support, which has grown considerably in the last decade. Policies continue to evolve to address market developments and costs reductions. In the case of solar PV energy, at least ten countries now have sizeable domestic markets. Both utility‐scale and rooftop solar PV generation have seen a major scale‐up in the past few years, resulting from market‐creating policies that led to an extraordinary decline in the cost of PV modules. Wind power also experienced dramatic growth over the last decade; global installed capacity at the end of 2011 was around 240 GW, up from 18 GW at the end of the year 2000.
Despite this good news, worldwide renewable electricity generation since 1990 grew an average of 2.8% per year, which is less than the 3% growth seen for total electricity generation. While 19.5% of global electricity in 1990 was produced from renewable sources, this share fell to 19.3% in 2009. This decrease is mainly the result of slow growth of the main renewable source, hydroelectric power, in OECD countries. Achieving the goal of halving global energy‐related CO2 emissions by 2050 will require a doubling (from today’s levels) of renewable generation by 2020.
IEA activities focus on policy and market analysis, system integration issues, analysis of renewable energy technologies and research, development and demonstration issues and priorities, as well as gathering and elaboration of statistical data. The work is rapidly expanding as a response to the present challenges of an unsustainable global energy structure and the growth of renewable energy markets. See more on the Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report.
Related topics: Biofuels, Ocean energy
Related material: Policies for Renewable Heat