A study released in July by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that global power generation from renewable sources was expected to rise by more than 40% to 6,400 terawatt hours (TWh) in the next five years.
This increase would equal one-and-a-half times the electricity currently produced in the US. It is also a figure limited only by government decisions, because the actual energy potential of renewable sources is limitless.
Solar energy alone produces 1,366 watts per square metre of earth it touches. Just 366,375 square kilometres of solar panels would be required to power the globe.
“Renewable energy is expanding rapidly as technologies mature, with deployment transitioning from support-driven markets to new and potentially more competitive segments in many countries,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven during the report’s launch.
“Market stakeholders need a clear understanding of the major drivers and barriers to renewable deployment,” she added.
A similar message was given by Charles Hendry, Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), at the IEA’s Renewables 2012 conference in July.
He stated that a market reform would be necessary for renewable energy to attract investment, as its costs will be relatively high at this early stage.
The electricity sector must be transformed to lower these costs for consumers, while power plants should be rebuilt to accommodate a variety of renewable sources.
Renewables will also require £100 billion in subsidies to aid this “crucial part of the equation” of entering into the international financial market. “No energy hasn’t needed subsidies while developing”, Hendry said, countering recent negative press about the large sum.
Nearly £400 billion is already invested in fossil fuels per year, making renewables subsidies look modest in comparison.
Hendry outlined the severity of fossil fuel shortage, predicting that frequent blackouts will take place by the end of the decade if renewables aren’t given the chance to develop. Britain’s coal-fired plants are due to close in 2016, he said, with nuclear plants following suit in 2023.
A number of presentations during the conference depicted ready-made renewable technologies, raring to go but awaiting expansion in order to achieve their full capabilities.
It is clear that the future of renewable energy rests in the hands of world leaders and governments. Only they can give these technologies the expansion they need.
But until politicians stop chasing the last remnants of fossil fuels and make decisive action in renewables investment, we are going to be stuck with our goal of energy sustainability just out of reach.
Recent cuts in renewables subsidies only show that rather than investing in a clean sustainable future, the UK Government is choosing to waste valuable money on limited fossil fuels that will only lead to an economic dead end.