Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive CleanTechnica article from one of the world’s top renewable energy leaders, Adnan Z. Amin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
By Adnan Z. Amin
In 2011, while the cost of renewable energy technologies continued to fall, global total investment reached a record $257 billion, and global renewable power capacity exceeded 1,360 GW. With these investments, renewable energy has moved from a niche, environmentally driven option into an economically viable solution to meet the growing energy demand of a rapidly growing global population.
Many nations are currently making critical decisions on how to supply their populations soaring demand for energy. For some, this involves expanding their existing infrastructure, whereas for others it involves creating entirely new energy systems. Either way, the decisions that these nations make now will stay with them for decades, and will undoubtedly impact their future economic growth, social development, and environmental sustainability. To ensure that these decisions are rational, decision makers must be informed of the true costs and implications of all the options for meeting their energy needs.
To ensure that renewable energy receives the consideration it should: we must realise that our real challenge has moved from the idea, and growing public support for that idea, to creating concrete action. It is the practical issues that surround the development and deployment of renewable energy that pose the pressing questions now. These issues span many subjects, including policy, investment, technology, and technological costs. Creating pragmatic solutions for the future will unlock the true potential of renewable energy to provide clean, secure, and sustainable energy to all.
One way of increasing the global momentum of renewable energy technologies, whether in innovation or implementation, is by identifying the business case for renewables. We can do this by demonstrating the many situations where renewable energy has reached grid parity, or where it has created energy access, or reduced the costs of powering businesses. This will empower people to create solutions for the practical issues that are currently constraining uptake.
Fortunately, there are numerous international initiatives that are promoting and recognising practical contributions to renewable energy globally. I have the honour of being involved at a high level with several of these. One is the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s global initiative “Sustainable Energy for All,” which aims to achieve universal access to modern energy services, double the improvement in energy efficiency, and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. The Secretary-General has called on governments, private sector, and civil society to make commitments towards achieving these complimentary objectives, and many, including the International Renewable Energy Agency, have answered this call.
Another international initiative is the Zayed Future Energy Prize. This annual award spurs innovation by recognising contributions made to renewable energy and sustainability that display innovation, long-term vision, and leadership, while also creating a real impact in the world. The Prize reflects the vision of the late Ruler of Abu Dhabi and Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and is awarded for categories ranging from large corporations through to high schools that have made significant contributions to creating a sustainable global energy future. This clearly acknowledges that the contributions that will transform our energy system will come from a multitude of sources.
Renewable energy is poised to power a new energy paradigm. But the potential of this energy revolution will be hamstrung unless we work to answer the practical questions facing development and deployment. Through the combined efforts of policy makers, courage of investors, and innovation of scientists, we have already shown that we are capable of realising the potential of renewable energy. The global growth in renewable energy investment and capacity attests to this. But to truly realise the global potential of renewable energy, we need to focus our efforts on creating pragmatic and relevant solutions to the real issues facing us.
Adnan Z. Amin is Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency, and a jury member for the Zayed Future Energy Prize, an annual award that celebrates achievement in renewable energy and sustainability. Mr. Amin is a development economist specializing in sustainable development.