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The Rise of Renewables: How Wind and Solar Power Are Transforming the Global Energy Landscape

The Rise of Renewables | INPress Global Awareness
The Rise of Renewables | INPress Global Awareness

The past decade has seen a clean energy revolution take hold worldwide. This extensive transformation has been powered above all by the rise of wind and solar, which have experienced unprecedented growth surpassing even optimistic projections.

A dual surge in wind and solar installations has coincided with plummeting costs, making them now the least expensive sources of new power generation in many markets. Advances in manufacturing scale and innovative turbine designs brought down the cost of electricity from wind by 70% since 2009. Likewise, mounting efficiencies in crystalline silicon solar cell production alongside increasing panel outputs drove down the cost of solar electricity 85% over the same period.

Spurring investment and expansion has been governments strengthening climate policies. Over 180 nations have adopted renewables targets as part of their Paris Agreement commitments to curb emissions. The European Union aims generate 32% electricity from renewable sources by 2030, up from around 25% today. China – the world’s largest energy consumer – is on track to exceed its goal of bringing non-fossil fuel sources to 20% of primary consumption before 2030.

Independent of subsidies, renewable energy is increasingly able to compete head-to-head against fossil fuels on price alone. In many countries, new renewable capacity has been added at lower cost than even the most efficient coal and natural gas power plants. To better harness this deflationary potential, renewable portfolio standards and feed-in tariffs supporting early deployment are progressively being replaced by competitive auctions determining power purchase agreements.

The transformation is exemplified by the fact 6 of the 10 largest electricity producers globally are now European utilities largely powered by renewables and nuclear energy. In the United States, 14 states plus Washington D.C. source over 20% of electricity from wind, solar, hydro and other renewables, with 10 on track for 100% carbon-free grids. Rapid growth is not limited to high-income nations – countries like Bangladesh, Honduras, Morocco and Senegal have doubled or even quadrupled their renewable energy capacity over the last decade.

Opportunities exist to scale up further. As of 2022, over 27% of global electricity came from renewable sources but the share of total final energy consumption including transportation and buildings was around 12-13%. Efforts are focusing on greening heat and mobility, from developing renewable hydrogen as a zero-carbon fuel to integrating electric vehicles with variable renewable power through vehicle-to-grid technology. Support schemes and market reforms will influence whether wind, solar and related technologies can become the cornerstone of future energy systems worldwide.

While potential is vast, large-scale integration still presents challenges. Solar and wind generation are variable, necessitating solutions to guarantee security of supply during periods of low renewable output. Batteries provide valuable flexibility but rely on critical minerals requiring responsible sourcing and recycling. Expanding cross-border electricity trade and developing demand response markets could help balance variable supply over broad geographic areas.

More transmission infrastructure is needed to transport energy from remote renewable ‘goldmines’ to demand centers, requiring greater cooperation. Some regions encounter community opposition to onshore wind farms due to concerns over impacts on wildlife, landscape and livelihoods of farmers. Policymakers chart a delicate path balancing environmental, social and economic considerations.

Yet the will to advance clean energy globally remains stronger than ever. By harnessing the vast and free power of wind and sunlight, humanity is undergoing an energy revolution with potential to alter strategic and geopolitical frameworks worldwide. With continued innovation and enabling policies, renewable resources could reshape maps of international influence in the decades ahead. The 2020s will prove seminal in determining the accessibility, sustainability and ultimate scale of this remarkable global energy transformation.


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