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Renewable energy has come of age – says IEA executive director

Maria van der Hoeven,
Executive Director,
18 July 2012 – International Energy Agency (IEA) executive director Maria van der Hoeven says that renewable energy has come of age. “Renewable energy has seen a huge expansion in the last decade and is an increasingly important part of the global energy mix,” she says.

“The world’s energy system is being pushed to the breaking point as our addiction to fossil fuels grows stronger by the year. Achieving a more secure, sustainable energy system requires urgent action by the world’s major governments, who until now have failed to put us on the path toward a clean-energy transformation. If this collective policy failure continues and nothing is done to bring greenhouse-gas emissions under control, we face potentially disastrous environmental and economic consequences.

“Renewable energy is among the most promising of these solutions. In fact, renewable energy is the source of the only real success stories at the moment.” Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed by households and businesses averaged 42% annual growth globally over the last decade, while onshore wind growth averaged 27% annually.

“I’ve mentioned some of the potential advantages of renewable energy, but there are also many challenges for the sector, including some uncertainties associated with a cautious macroeconomic outlook and the fact that several key markets are deliberating significant changes to renewable policies and deeper electricity market reforms. The cost and availability of renewable financing remains a persistent question mark. Moreover, some parts of the renewable industry are going through a period of upheaval, with supply chains restructuring and shifting geographically while delivering cost reductions.”

Taking all this into consideration, our analysis indicates that the renewable electricity growth is expected to accelerate over the next five years, with global generation increasing by about 40% as technologies mature and deployment scales up and spreads out to new markets.

That’s strong growth, more rapid than in the last five years, certainly, but if you compare it to the decarbonisation challenge facing the world’s energy system, you see very quickly that renewable sources alone are not enough. We need a portfolio of solutions that include energy efficiency and other low-carbon energy options that today are lagging behind.