REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report

REN21’s Renewables Global Futures Report is available!

The REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report presents an array of credible possibilities for the future of renewable energy in a completely new format: a mosaic of the world‘s contemporary thinking about the future of renewables.

The report is based on worldwide interviews with 170 experts from the energy sector, interviews with local city officials and stakeholders in more than 20 cities, and over 50 recently pulished scenarios by credible international organisations, energy companies and research institutes, covering global, regional and national long-term futures to 2020-2050. It further takes into account all existing goverment policy targets for future shares or amounts of renewable energy to 2020-2050 and long-term action plans on various levels, corporate annual reports, other publications and communications by major energy companies and a variety of published articles and references. All of this information is blended into a synthesis of contemporary thinking about the future of renewable energy. This includes opinions from people interviewed, scenario results (with reference to the organisation authoring the scenario), additional views of utility companies, oil and gas companies and automakers, and views of developing country experts and companies.

The report is intended to facilitate further dialogue and discussions about the future of renewable energy among a wide range of stakeholders, and especially with a view to policymaking. Nonetheless, the report does not contain any policy recommendations.

Executive Summary:

„The future of renewable energy is fundamentally a choice, not a foregone conclusion given technology and economic trends.“

The context for this choice involves a multitude of starting positions, motivations and other factors like costs and cost comparison methods. The report suggests that future policies will evolve over time and depend on changing paradigms (for energy systems and services, buildings and mobility). „Transformational change“ is implied by many scenarios and expert opinions: This change does not just concern technology and infrastructure, but rather models of social, institutional, business and policy change. Ultimately, transformation is seen as more than just renewables fitting into existing energy systems; on the contrary, all energy technologies need to evolve together but with different roles into transformed energy systems.

The views on the options ahead vary considerably:
Conservative renewable energy outlooks project a future share of renewable energy in global energy supply below 20%, „moderate“ outlooks project shares of 30-45% by 2050 (including electricity, heating/cooling and transport), and „high renewables“ outlooks even project 50-90% of RES shares by 2050 (with up to 100% shares of renewable electricity without heat or transport). A common attribute of many high-renewables scenarios is a future carbon emissions constraint (either through aggressive energy efficiency improvements, sometimes carbon capture and storage (CCS) for fossil fuels and typically little or no nuclear power; some of these scenarios also include some type of carbon price).

The challenges identified for the future of renewables are not fundamentally technical issues, but rather relate to practices, policies, institutions, business models and finance, aggregation, cross-sectoral linkages or changes in professional training and practice. Out of these factors, financing proves to be key to the future of renewables.

At the local and city level, strong visions for the future of renewables are proliferating, accompanied by planning approaches and concrete support polices. New approaches to urban planning arise. National renewable energy markets are projected to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond, and experts believe that a diverse geographic base for renewables will arise from market expansion in a great number of developing countries on a bigger scale.

In consideration of the strong growth of renewable energy markets in the past decade and manufacturing economies of scale, drastic technology improvements and cost reductions have come along. To date, hydropower, geothermal and biomass power and heat are the most mature technologies, which – according to most projections – will show continued growth. Among other renewables, onshore wind power is closest to commercial maturity, and offshore wind is seen to have large (although uncertain) potential for cost reduction. Solar PV may achieve grid parity soon, and in many countries already by 2020, whereas expert judgements foresee a large cost-reduction potential for solar thermal power. Many projections show large future markets for advanced biofuels and predict new approaches to using biomass and a greater use of biogas.

Further information

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