The Promise of Renewables
June 7, 2012
Clean energy has the potential to provide enough energy to meet or exceed the global primary energy or electricity demand. However, the development and utilization of clean energy is dependent on having the technology, know-how, financing, and infrastructure in place to ensure access to the abundant and low or zero fuel cost basic energy sources. Growth in renewable energy demand is driven by a combination of factors including availability and access, higher prices for some conventional energy sources, improving economics of renewable energy-related technologies and processes, and a variety of policy and financial incentives that make renewable energy sources and infrastructure alterations able to compete with conventional energy supplies. Economically, renewables are increasingly competitive with conventional energy options, as conventional energy prices, while lower now than the high price period of the late 2000s, are still relatively high for oil across the board and for gas and coal in some regions of the world, and are likely to remain volatile and high as long as demand from rapidly emerging developing economies continues to strain markets. However, it is very difficult to forecast the growth in renewable energy as these contributing factors are increasingly volatile and are subject to changes that are not easy to foresee. Moreover, continued support for renewable energy development is challenged by the current period of fiscal austerity and stymied economic growth. Many countries have responded by maintaining or strengthening their renewable energy targets, while others are reviewing or rolling back support.