- Here is My Take  - posted July 2015

    Can Renewable Energy represent a viable alternative to fossil fuels ?

In the aftermath of the oil crisis in the mid-seventies, RE have been explored and presented as an alternative to fossil fuels. RE would allow countries to break their dependence on foreign oil, ensure national energy security, reduce environmental pollution and mitigate climate change. However, opponents of RE development often point out concerns over the intermittent nature of the resources, high cost of technologies and its competitiveness. Despite those criticisms, Renewable power generation technologies have benefited in recent years from a cycle of falling costs and have proven to be more and more financially viable, independent on the region or size of the projects.

The RE market has seen a remarkable growth during the last decade. According to REN21 (2013), renewable energy share in the world total energy consumption accounted for 19% in 2012 and 22% for electricity generation in 2013. Worlwide investment in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$214 billion in 2013 as a result of massive investment across the globe, especially in USA and China. Based on estimates from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), 51,473 MW of new wind generating capacity was added in the single year of 2014 and the total cumulative installations were above 369 GW by the end of that same year. In the meantime, statistics from the International Energy Agency show that cumulative photovoltaic capacity has reached 178 GW, sufficient to supply 1% of the world's total electricity consumption of currently 18,400 TWh.

The costs of RE technologies have tremendously dropped in recent years with huge technological improvement through the supply chains of wind power and solar industries. For instance the cost of solar PV Module price per Watt dropped from over 14$ to less 2$ from 1990 to 2015. In some countries, PV projects are now regularly delivering electricity for just USD 0.08 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) without financial support, compared to a range of USD 0.045 to 0.14/kWh for fossil fuel power; while onshore wind is now one of the most competitive sources of electricity available (IRENA 2015). In the United States, wind power and solar PV projects provide a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) between $0.08 and $0.20. 

          Installed Prices of Solar PV over time 
Source: US-DOE, NREL, LBNL, July 2013

The challenges of global warming and energy security have become a priority to adapt our mode of energy production and consumption in order to avoid an environmental catastrophy. RE is a viable alternative to our fossil fuels addiction and the right cure to energy security and the climate change concern. With zero greenhouse gas emissions, they can help protect the environment, save the planet, bring clean electricity to billions of people around the globe, significantly contribute to poverty 
alleviation and and help achieve sustainable development goals for future generations

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