Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy often provides energy in four important areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services.
Based on REN21's 2017 report, renewables contributed 19.3% to humans' global energy consumption and 24.5% to their generation of electricity in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This energy consumption is divided as 8.9% coming from traditional biomass, 4.2% as heat energy (modern biomass, geothermal and solar heat), 3.9% from hydroelectricity and the remaining 2.2% is electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, and other forms of biomass. Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$286 billion in 2015. In 2017, worldwide investments in renewable energy amounted to US$279.8 billion with China accounting for US$126.6 billion or 45% of the global investments, the United States for US$40.5 billion and Europe for US$40.9 billion. Globally there are an estimated 7.7 million jobs associated with the renewable energy industries, with solar photovoltaics being the largest renewable employer. Renewable energy systems are rapidly becoming more efficient and cheaper and their share of total energy consumption is increasing. As of 2019, more than two-thirds of worldwide newly installed electricity capacity was renewable. Growth in consumption of coal and oil could end by 2020 due to increased uptake of renewables and natural gas.
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.
Some places and at least two countries, Iceland and Norway, generate all their electricity using renewable energy already, and many other countries have the set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy in the future.
At least 47 nations around the world already have over 50 percent of electricity from renewable resources. Renewable energy resources exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to fossil fuels, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies 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.
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. As most of renewable energy technologies provide electricity, renewable energy deployment is often applied in conjunction with further electrification, which has several benefits: electricity can be converted to heat (where necessary generating higher temperatures than fossil fuels), can be converted into mechanical energy with high efficiency, and is clean at the point of consumption. In addition, electrification with renewable energy is more efficient and therefore leads to significant reductions in primary energy requirements.
De Zoeker, an oil windmill built in 1672 and still in operation, located in Zaanstad, Netherlands.
Did you know?
- 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)
- "The variability of sun, wind and so on, turns out to be a non-problem if you do several sensible things. One is to diversify your renewables by technology, so that weather conditions bad for one kind are good for another. Second, you diversify by site so they're not all subject to the same weather pattern at the same time because they're in the same place. Third, you use standard weather forecasting techniques to forecast wind, sun and rain, and of course hydro operators do this right now. Fourth, you integrate all your resources — supply side and demand side..." – Amory Lovins
- "Because the wind blows during stormy conditions when the sun does not shine and the sun often shines on calm days with little wind, combining wind and solar can go a long way toward meeting demand, especially when geothermal provides a steady base and hydroelectric can be called on to fill in the gaps". – Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi. Scientific American, November 2009, p. 43.