With costs falling and emerging economies stepping into the game, the International Energy Agency is predicting renewable energy capacity additions to grow 700 GW over the next five years.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) published its latest Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report 2015 report on Friday, in which it claims that renewable energy will represent the single largest source of electricity growth over the next five years, ending with a predicted 700 GW of global renewable energy capacity increase. This growth is set to be driven by well-publicized falling costs of renewable energy technologies, and the increasing role of emerging economies, which are turning to renewable energy for much-needed electricity generation expansion.
“Renewables are poised to seize the crucial top spot in global power supply growth, but this is hardly time for complacency,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol at the launch of the report. “Governments must remove the question marks over renewables if these technologies are to achieve their full potential, and put our energy system on a more secure, sustainable path.”
We have seen plenty of evidence over the past several years of real declines in the cost of renewable energy technologies, especially solar, with companies drawing ever-closer to making solar as cheap — if not cheaper — than traditional fossil fuel-based electricity. Such declines in global renewable energy technologies are not only allowing massive expansions in traditional developed countries, but big capacity goals in developing nations throughout the rest of the world as well — specifically in China, India, and throughout South America.
“Affordable renewables are set to dominate the emerging power systems of the world,” Dr. Birol said. “With excellent hydro, solar, and wind resources, improving cost-effectiveness and policy momentum, renewables can play a critical role in supporting economic growth and energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, meeting almost two-thirds of the region’s new demand needs over the next five years.”
There will be a slight drop-off in some areas, such as throughout Europe and in Japan, due to what the authors of the report describe as “persistent policy and market integration uncertainty” — something we have seen a lot of in the UK, recently. Nevertheless, according to the IEA, these uncertainties will be well compensated by the growth of renewable energy in emerging countries, which are set to account for almost two-thirds of global renewable energy capacity expansion through to 2020.
Unsurprisingly then, one of the only challenges highlighted by the report is the potential for changes to national policy to undermine global renewable energy growth. In fact, as costs continue to decline almost across the board, national policy is one of the only things standing in the way of even greater growth for the global renewable energy industry, with the IEA highlighting the role that policy can have to dramatically increase that growth.
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