Where are we at with renewable energy?

REN21’s Renewables Global Status Report provides the state of play for renewable energy around the world.  It is a comprehensive report but also a straightforward read to understand where we are at in terms of deployment of renewables.

The overall state of renewable energy deployment

A good place to starts is the section on renewable energy indicators.  It shows the significant growth we’ve had in deployment of different technologies since 2004 - particularly in Solar PV (over 5000%!), wind power and biodiesel production.  Government policies are an important part of this rollout and as you can see most countries now have targets for renewable energy - a 3-fold increase since 2004.

What does it mean for Cleanleap countries?

For those looking to make a Cleanleap, focus your attention on three sections of this report.

First, you can see that emerging economies already play a major role in the use of renewables around the world.  The Philippines is the second largest producer of geothermal power and Indonesia is third.   India is the fourth largest of producer of concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) and fifth biggest wind energy producer.  Algeria is also in the top five for CSP.  Finally, Brazil is in the top five in many categories along with China, who is the overall leader in renewable energy production (with and without hydropower).  In addition, countries such as Kenya, Mauritius, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Nicaragua all added lots of capacity in the past year.   

Next, have a look at the section on distributed renewable energy technologies.  Many of the countries we look at for Cleanleaps have highly dispersed populations, challenging terrains and citizens with low purchasing power - this makes for a difficult business case in terms of traditional, centralized power.   Several technologies are enable a more decentralized approach, including rooftop solar, micro hydro and improved battery technology.   One of the points also raised in the report is that mini-grids have been an important aspect of the spread of renewable energy in these emerging economies.  Mini-grids typically have a power source of less than 3MW and supply power to a much more  localised network of domestic or business customers.  Recent advances in information technology systems for power management and end-user services have helped enable the rapid growth of these mini-grids.

Finally, lets look at where the money is coming from.  As you can see in this analysis, the growth in investment from developing economies has been much greater than those of developed economies over the past 10 years.  In terms of the technology bets being made - its definitely in solar and wind.  This shouldn’t really be a huge surprise considering what we’ve been seeing in the world economy over the past decade - the lines are most certainly blurred around what is considered a developing vs. developed economy.  In the next decade I think we’ll see an even more complex picture and part of that is countries making Cleanleaps into new technologies.  The transition to a renewable-based economy does indeed keep looking better,