Renewable energy is a fundamental and growing part of the global energy transformation. Increasingly, renewables have become the first choice for expanding, upgrading and modernising power systems around the world.
REthinking Energy, the flagship report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), examines trends and developments in the global quest for a sustainable energy future. As this third edition emphasises, accelerated deployment will fuel economic growth, create new employment opportunities, enhance human welfare and contribute to a climate-safe future.
Renewables, consequently, are crucial for sustainable development, including the pursuit of SDG 7, the United Nations-adopted goal of ensuring “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
Policies and regulations remain crucial to establish a stable and attractive market for renewable energy. Strong government commitment is needed to reduce risk and lower the cost of financing.
To date, more than 170 countries have established renewable energy targets, and nearly 150 have enacted policies to catalyse investments in renewable energy technologies.
At the end of 2016, at least 67 countries had held renewable energy auctions, compared to only six in 2005. Solar photovoltaics (PV) achieved new price lows in several countries.
In the power sector, breakthroughs in complementary systems, in particular storage, will enable the integration of larger shares of renewable electricity. Off-grid renewables – via both stand-alone systems and mini-grids – can increasingly complement grid-based options to expand sustainable energy access.
Battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030, according to IRENA estimates. The market value of battery storage reached USD 2.2 billion in 2015 and is expected to rise to USD 14 billion by 2020.
Global PV capacity soared from 40 GW in 2010 to 219 GW in 2015. Solar PV could to account for as much as 7% of global power generation by 2030 – a six-fold increase from today.
Global investment in renewables has shown steady growth for more than a decade, rising from less than USD 50 billion in 2004 to a record USD 348 billion in 2015.