Renewable energy refers to a range of energy sources that draw on inexhaustible natural sources, such as the sun, wind, water and biomass. These sources represent a key route away from fossil energy sources that drive climate change.
Benefits of renewable energy
- Renewable energy, when well designed and coupled with the adoption of effective storage systems, ensures a steady supply by reducing dependence on imported and fluctuating energy sources;
- Thanks to ongoing developments, renewable energy technologies are becoming increasingly efficient and economically convenient, especially in the case of photovoltaic panels and wind power;
- Investments in renewable energy not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also create new job opportunities and stimulate further technological development.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), generation capacity from renewable energy sources has grown rapidly in recent years, thanks to political support and great cost reductions. Renewable energy is a major player in the scenario where the world reaches net zero emissions by 2050, with electricity generation expected to be almost completely decarbonised. There are reasons to be optimistic about this. The IEA estimates that global renewable electricity capacity will rise to 4,500 gigawatts by 2024, equal to the total power generation of China and the United States combined.
While the electricity sector has always been benefitting from the strong growth of solar PV and wind power, adding to the already significant contribution of hydropower, challenges remain in other sectors. Electricity accounts for only one fifth of global energy consumption. In order to achieve a true energy transition, renewable energy sources must increasingly cover the energy consumption of transport and heating.
New infrastructure for renewable energy production must be designed carefully with many factors in mind. Although these sources have a far smaller impact than fossil sources, they can lead to habitat loss and the diversion of waterways if not properly implemented. In addition, some renewable sources require considerable space and can give rise to land-use conflicts in which indigenous peoples are often the most affected ones.