Renewables' share of world energy likely to shrink

Posted: 25 February 2003

A study released by the International Energy Agency at the end of 2002 suggests that the share of world energy supply made up from renewables is likely to shrink between now and 2030.

Renewables contributed 13.8% of the world's primary energy in 2000, up from 13.5% in 1990 and 13.3% in 1980, but down from its peak of 14% in 1971, according to the IEA's recent Renewables in Global Energy Supply fact sheet. The annual growth of both primary energy and the supply from renewables has been fairly constant at 2% a year, though 'new' renewables (which excludes hydro and biomass) has been growing at 9% recently. Overall, the new renewables contributed 0.5% of the world's primary energy in 2000, compared with 34.8% from oil, 23.5% from coal, 21.1% from natural gas, 6.8% from nuclear, 11% from biomass and waste, and 2.3% from hydro.

The IEA forecasts that the ratio from renewables will drop from the current 13.8% to 13.3% in 2010, 12.9% in 2020 and 12.5% in 2030.

Renewables are the second largest contributor to global electricity production, accounting for 19% of production in 2000, after 39% from coal but ahead of the 17% from nuclear and natural gas. Most electricity from renewables comes from hydro dams (92%) followed by biomass and waste (5%). The new renewables, though fast-growing, accounted for less than 3% in 2000.

Assuming the continuation of present government policies and no major breakthrough in technologies, renewables will grow by 1.3% per year (below the 1.7% overall growth of the total energy demand) over the next 30 years. The drop in share from renewables is due principally to a slowdown in the growth of biomass and waste combustion, caused by the shift from traditional biomass to modern forms of energy in developing countries, as well as some reduction in the growth of hydro power. The 'new' renewables will grow at 4.1% per annum, but will still be the smallest component of renewable energy in 2030.

In OECD nations, the share of renewables will increase from 6.4% in 2000 to 8% in 2030, with most renewables used for generation of electricity. Under a scenario where new energy and environment policies are implemented, non-hydro renewables will grow by 4% per year until 2030, compared with 2.7% in the reference scenario.

Source: Renewable Energy World (Jan-Feb 2003).