Renewable energy expected to be world's 2nd biggest power source by 2016
NEW YORK — Renewable energy is growing fast around the world and will edge out natural gas as the second-biggest source of electricity after coal by 2016, according to a five-year outlook published on Wednesday by the International Energy Agency.
Developing countries are building more wind, solar and hydroelectric power plants to meet rising power demand and combat local pollution problems. And the costs of renewables are falling below the cost of traditional power sources such as coal, natural gas and oil in some markets with high-priced power.
Renewable power, including hydropower, is the fastest-growing power generation sector and it is expected to increase by 40 percent in the next five years. By 2018 it will make up a quarter of the world's energy mix, according to the report, up from 20 percent in 2011.
Eighty percent of the renewable power generated in the world, however, is hydropower, a technology frowned upon by environmental groups and sustainability experts because it requires the construction of dams that can damage river ecosystems.
Non-hydroelectric sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and energy derived from plants are also expected to grow quickly, but they contribute a far smaller amount of energy to the global mix. These technologies will supply 8 percent of the world's energy by 2018, up from 4 percent in 2011 and 2 percent in 2006.
Still, renewable power is facing uncertain times as subsidies in developed countries wane. Investment in renewable projects fell in 2012, according to the IEA, an energy security and research organization based in Paris that serves 28 oil-importing countries, including the United States.
In a report published in April, the IEA said the world's energy is no cleaner than it was 20 years ago because of rising reliance on coal-fired generation in China, India, and parts of Europe that are phasing out nuclear power and facing high natural gas prices.
“The rapid growth of renewables continues to beat expectations and is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak assessment of global progress toward a cleaner and more diversified energy mix,” the report concludes.
The use of biofuels is expected to grow, though at a slower rate than renewable electricity, in part because companies haven't succeeded in developing technology that can squeeze fuels from plant waste or dedicated biofuel crops such as grasses at commercial scale. The vast majority of biofuel used today is alcohol — called ethanol — made from sugar cane or corn.
Biofuels use is projected to increase 25 percent by 2018 to 2.4 million barrels per day. By comparison, the world consumes 90 million barrels per day of petroleum.
Developing countries, led by China, will account for two-thirds of the global increase in renewable generation. Growth in Europe and the United States is expected to slow, though President Obama outlined a sweeping plan on Tuesday that would encourage renewed investment in renewable sources.
Renewable sources were used to generate 12 percent of the electricity consumed in the United States last year, according to the Energy Department. Hydroelectric plants supplied 7 percent of the country's power, and other renewables such as wind and solar supplied 5 percent.
Ethanol, mostly made from corn and blended with gasoline, was used to satisfy 10 percent of U.S. gasoline demand last year.
IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement that the biggest impediment to further renewable growth is changing energy policies that increase risk for investors.
“Many renewables no longer require high economic incentives. But they do still need long-term policies that provide a predictable and reliable market and regulatory framework compatible with societal goals,” she said.
The IEA estimates that worldwide subsides for fossil fuels are six times higher than incentives for renewables.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- GNC will expand its testing of supplements in settlement with NY
- Late decline eats into previous day’s stock market gains
- Pittsburgh region’s unemployment rate stays steady
- Dominion Resources CEO Farrell made $17.3M in 2014
- Increased credit card use reflects confidence, flat wages
- Corporate missteps hurt reputations, profits, sometimes in long run
- Nonprofit Concordia Lutheran Ministries adjusts to marketplace realities
- American Eagle Outfitters to add stores in Chile, Peru