Renewables 2013: Global Status Report

From: Yona Maro

Access to modern energy enables people to live better lives- providing clean heat for cooking, lighting for streets and homes, cooling and refrigeration, water pumping, as well as basic processing and communications. Yet over 1 billion people still lack access to modern energy services.

As a result of the UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and the upcoming Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, achieving universal energy access has risen to the top of the international agenda. However, given that the world recently passed 400 parts per million of atmospheric CO2- potentially enough to trigger a warming of 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels – meeting growing energy needs in a climate-constrained world requires a fundamental shift in how those energy services are delivered. Renewable energy, coupled with energy efficiency measures, is central to achieving this objective.

Renewables already play a major role in the energy mix in many countries around the world. In 2012, prices for renewable energy technologies, primarily wind and solar, continued to fall, making renewables increasingly mainstream and competitive with conventional energy sources. In the absence of a level playing field, however, high penetration of renewables is still dependent on a robust policy environment.

Global investment in renewable energy decreased in 2012, but investment expanded significantly in developing countries. Global investment decreased in response to economic and policy-related uncertainties in some traditional markets, as well as to falling technology costs, which had a positive effect on capacity installations. Renewable energy is spreading to new regions and countries and becoming increasingly affordable in developing and developed countries alike.

At the same time, falling prices, combined with declining policy support in established markets, the international financial crisis, and ongoing tensions in international trade, have challenged some renewable energy industries. Subsidies to fossil fuels, which are far higher than those for renewables, remain in place and need to be phased out as quickly as possible. The emergence of shale gas brings a new dynamic to the energy market, and it remains to be seen how it will affect renewable energy deployment globally.

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