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Global Shift to Renewable Power Needed

September 9, 2014 By Karen Henry

LCOE IRENA energy-manageSpeeding up the adoption of renewable energy technologies is the most feasible route to reduce carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

This first edition of REthinking Energy, which draws on worldwide research and analysis by the intergovernmental agency and reviews progress in the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future, focuses on the global power sector and how technological advances, economic growth and climate change are transforming it.

With global population projected to top 8 billion by 2030, electricity demand is expected to more than double as more people move into the middle class and consume greater quantities of energy. Historically, as energy consumption grows, so have carbon dioxide emissions. The burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity accounts for more than 40 percent of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions today.

The good news, IRENA said, is that renewable energy provides a viable and affordable solution to climate change. Solar PV costs have dropped 80 percent since 2008 and are expected to continue dropping. Increasingly, solar is able to compete in the global energy marketplace without subsidies.

Wind electricity has also seen tremendous growth and decreased cost. The cost of onshore wind electricity has decreased 18 percent since 2009, and turbine costs have fallen nearly 30 percent since 2008, making it the cheapest source of new electricity in a range of markets, IRENA said.

Worldwide, renewable power capacity has grown 85 percent over the past 10 years, reaching 1,700 GW in 2013, and renewables today constitute 30 percent of all installed power capacity.

The challenge seems to have shifted from whether renewable energy can power modern lifestyles at a reasonable cost to how best to finance and accelerate its deployment. As the technology has grown more competitive and pressure on budgets has increased, governments have been reducing their support. However, private finance is increasingly ready to step in, and international investors are also starting to get interested.

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