Enabling policies and better grid integration needed to boost renewables

The World Energy Council convened for the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul this week, with renewable energy one of the topics at the top of the agenda. Before the conference began, the World Energy Council spoke of the expected trajectory of renewable energy, but once it was underway, industry leaders got straight to the point with discussions about how ambitious targets can be met.

First it was time to celebrate the achievements of the clean energy industry, which saw US$348 billion invested in it in 2015, which is double the amount spent on fossil fuels. However, something that was also noted is that over half of that investment came from developing economies, which brings into question the commitment of the developed world to set a world-leading example.

Another encouraging reality is that renewable energy technology is costing less, especially solar PV, while coal and gas energy generation is costing more. And to compliment a transition to renewable resources, energy storage is seeing heavy investment, and is becoming a wide-spread tool, with the World Energy Council now predicting that the cost of energy storage should drop by an astounding 70% over the next 15 years.

Industry leaders have their say

During the Global Renewables Update session, Jérôme Pécresse, President and CEO of GE Renewable Energy spoke about increasing transmission capacity and integrating renewables into the grid, believing that the price of the renewables will fall, so people need to be well placed to take advantage. However, an interesting point was made within the session by Frank Quante, Managing Director of energy company EWE, who pointed out that the challenges of renewable energy integration are often best tackled at a local level, rather than a national and international level, because of the complexity of the issues.

During the same session Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency pointed to the dominant trajectory of renewables, which now account for 30% of the world’s total power generation. “Renewables are the fastest-growing employer in the energy sector as lower technology costs have accelerated their use,” stated Amin.

Before the congress began, the Word Energy Council opened proceeding with its Grand Transition paper, highlighting the ‘phenomenal’ rise of solar and wind technologies, stating that it believed the increase in solar and wind deployment will see renewables account for around 60% of all power generation by 2060. It believes that solar alone should account for 20% of the world’s total power generation by this time.

Interestingly, the World Energy Council also announced that it expected per capita energy demand to peak before 2030, and then retract from there. This, it said, will be due to new and unprecedented efficiencies and more stringent energy policies. However, it is clear from the views of the industry experts that governments must support different initiatives at different levels for these policies to fully take hold.