Wonderful future for renewable energy

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The future appears to be bright for renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and water. In fact, power generation from such renewables will exceed that of gas and nuclear by 2016, according to a report published Wednesday by theInternational Energy Agency (IEA).

English: Taken by Neutronic

English: Taken by Neutronic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“As their costs continue to fall, renewable power sources are increasingly standing on their own merits versus new fossil-fuel generation,” IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement.

Renewable energy has the momentum now. The report predicts that renewables will make up almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, up from an estimated 20 percent in 2011.

Two main factors are driving the boom, according to the Paris-based IEA.

First, emerging markets in countries like China and India are increasingly turning to renewables to meet their fast-rising electricity demands.  Growth in these markets is expected to more than compensate for slower growth in Europe and the U.S.

Second, the cost of renewable energy sources has declined considerably. For example, wind competes well with new fossil-fuel power plants in a number of countries, including Brazil, Turkey, and New Zealand.

Hydropower—generated by falling or flowing water, like in dams—will remain the largest renewable power-generating source in the coming years and should account for more than two-thirds of the total global output from renewable sources by 2018, the IEA predicts.

The IEA also expects onshore wind power generation technologies, already widespread in 2012, to be deployed in 75 countries by 2018.

The use of biofuels, which generates energy from biological sources like municipal waste, is also expected to see modest growth in the near term. The IEA projects that more than 50 countries will be generating more than 100 megawatts of electricity using biofuels by 2018, up from 40 megawatts in 2012.

China is projected to be the leader in the adoption of many renewable energy technologies, including hydropower, onshore and offshore wind, solar, and biofuels.

Is the estimate correct?

Daniel Kammen, founder and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, argued that the IEA’s projections are somewhat conservative.Kammen thinks the global shift to renewables and the adoption of policies and technologies to accelerate their deployment could occur faster than the IEA predicts due to growing awareness about health impacts of local pollution and the economic and environmental costs of climate change.

Despite the momentum behind renewables, challenges remain, IEA’s Van der Hoeven said.For example, “worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels remain six times higher than economic incentives for renewables,” she said.

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