Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, hot water/space heating, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services.
Based on REN21's 2014 report, renewables contributed 19 percent to our energy consumption and 22 percent to our electricity generation in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Modern renewables (such as hydro, wind, solar and biofuels) and traditional biomass contributed in about equal parts to the global energy supply. Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$ 214 billion in 2013, with countries like China and the United States heavily investing in wind, hydro, solar and biofuels.
Renewable energy resources exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is resulting in significant energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic benefits. In international public opinion surveys there is strong support for promoting renewable sources such as solar power and wind power. At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20 percent of energy supply. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond.
While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas and developing countries, where energy is often crucial in human development. United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that renewable energy has the ability to lift the poorest nations to new levels of prosperity.
Did you know?
... that The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity, the 2007 book by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, argues that commercializing clean technologies is a profitable enterprise that is moving steadily into mainstream business ? As the world economy faces challenges from energy price spikes, resource shortages, global environmental problems, and security threats, clean technologies are seen to be the next engine of economic growth.
Pernick and Wilder highlight eight major clean technology sectors: solar power, wind power, biofuels, green buildings, personal transportation, the smart grid, mobile applications (such as portable fuel cells), and water filtration. Very large corporations such as GE, Toyota and Sharp, and investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are making multi-billion dollar investments in clean technology.
- May 19, 2016: Final turbine of the 582MW German offshore Gode Wind Farm installed. (ReCharge)
- May 18, 2016: Renewable energy in Portugal supplies 100% of demand over four days in a row. (The Guardian)
- April 29, 2016: The Australian Capital Territory lifts its renewable energy target to 100% by 2020. (The Canberra Times)
- March 15, 2016: Bokpoort concentrated solar power inaugurated in South Africa. (ESI Africa)
- March 5, 2016: The 132MW Cadiz Solar Power Plant in the Philippines, the largest in Southeast Asia opens. (Deal Street Asia)
- February 5, 2016: Morocco completes the Noor 1 solar plant, the first stage of a 500MW project (The Japan Times)
- December 17, 2015: The 113MW Tafila Wind Farm in Jordan is inaugurated. (PR Newswire)
- December 2, 2015: The 300MW Cestas solar plant, the largest photovoltaic power station in Europe, is inaugurated near Bordeaux. (RenewEconomy)
- December 1, 2015: The 200MW Gulf of El-Zayt wind farm - the largest in Africa- is inaugurated in Egypt. (African Review)
- November 26, 2015: Mauritania's first wind farm inaugurated. (North Africa Post)
- "Renewable energy provides 18 percent of total net electricity generation worldwide. Renewable energy generators are spread across the globe, and wind power alone already provides a significant share of electricity in some regions: for example, 14 percent in the U.S. state of Iowa, 40 percent in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, and 20 percent in the nation of Denmark. Some countries get most of their power from renewables, including Iceland (100 percent), Brazil (85 percent), Austria (62 percent), New Zealand (65 percent), and Sweden (54 percent)."
- "Solar hot water provides an important contribution to meeting hot water needs in many countries, most importantly in China, which now has fully 70 percent of the global total (180 GWth)... Worldwide, total installed solar water heating systems meet a portion of the water heating needs of over 70 million households. The use of biomass for heating continues to grow as well. Notable is Sweden, where national use of biomass energy has surpassed that of oil. Direct geothermal for heating is also growing rapidly."
- "Renewable biofuels are meanwhile making inroads in the transportation fuels market and are beginning to have a measurable impact on demand for petroleum fuels, contributing to a decline in oil consumption in the United States in particular starting in 2006... The 93 billion liters of biofuels produced worldwide in 2009 displaced the equivalent of an estimated 68 billion liters of gasoline, equal to about 5 percent of world gasoline production."
– Christopher Flavin in REN21 (2010). Renewables 2010 Global Status Report p. 53.