24 August 2012 – Internationally renowned renewable energy expert,Christine Wörlen, says that a stable regulatory environment is needed to encourage anybody to invest in renewable energy. “The wave of deployment will be slow in the beginning, as few investors delve into a new technology in a new country right away. On the other hand there needs to be a regular incremental adjustment of the regulatory framework as technologies develop and become more competitive and as the integration of increased power output from intermittent technology becomes more complicated and new regulatory detail is required.”
According to Wörlen, renewables are the only energy sources that are coming down in price. “They are getting cheaper over time. All other technologies and energy sources are on an upward trend. This is a unique situation and one that merits close watching.”
She says the main challenge is getting started. “We are all locked into centralised electricity systems. Modern’ renewable energy – and I am not looking at large hydro dams here − is a new industry in almost every country, coming up against the established competition. It requires paradigm changes in power sector planning and operation.”
With regards to success stories, Wörlen says Germany is a well-known one, reporting figures of consistent growth in renewables for 20 years and counting. She says, “more than 300,000 jobs have been created in the industry and yet more earn money from producing and selling solar power to the grid. This year, 25% of our power comes from renewables, so that we have increased our energy security.”
She explains that there are many developing countries that are great examples too. “This includes Brazil which has been running its car fleet on sugar cane for a long time. In Mexico, it can be cheaper to buy wind and solar power for your business than traditional electricity from the national utility. China is successfully growing a solar and wind industry and also increasingly using the technology at home. Even smaller countries like Morocco are now demonstrating commitment and attracting a lot of business in the renewable energy field.”
What did they do right?Wörlen says these countries understood that renewables offer various advantages that they found to outweigh the challenges. “Renewables are not only clean; they are innovative and help create more jobs than conventional energy. Policy makers in the successful countries understood these advantages and put in place policies to attract the industry and help foster its growth. Also, often they chose rather smart policies. These were focused on the specific objectives that the countries found most important – jobs or energy security or investment, depending on the context. Furthermore, these policies are constantly monitored and adjusted.”
And what is her specific message for Africa? “The sun is on your side.”
Wörlen will deliver the keynote address at the upcoming Clean Power Africa conference and exhibition in Cape Town in September.