International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a new analysis that shows that renewable energy technologies are best suited for off-grid electrification, grid extension as well as for centralized grid supply in locations with good resources. The study, released in Abu Dhabi on 5-6 June 2012, covers solar photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar power (CSP), wind power, hydropower and biomass for power generation. Today, half of all new power generation capacity additions are accounted for by these renewable energy technologies.
Another positive result of this study was the fact renewable generation is getting more and more economically competitive. “Critically, the cost declines we have seen mean that policy support for renewables isn’t as costly as a static analysis of costs would imply.” IRENA’s Director-General, Mr. Adnan Z. Amin, said.
Cost for Crystalline silicon PV module have fallen by over 60 percent in the last two years to as little as USD 1/watt. Especially in countries with good solar resources increased capacity growth further will occur further cost reductions.
Large-scale CSP without energy storage had even lower installed costs than PV in 2010, IRENA’s studies shows. Thermal storage increases costs but allows decoupling supply from daytime sunshine.
In the areas with high potentials, wind power has been competitive with conventional energy for a while; but prices have recently started to fall and this trend is likely to continue as low-cost manufacturers from emerging economies increasingly make their presence felt in the global market.
As for bioenergy, there is still untapped potential in many areas. Large quantities of agricultural and forestry wastes go underutilized.
A mature technology such as hydro produces clean energy at a low cost.
Another interesting point is what Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts found: Investing a million dollars in natural gas or coal industries produces 5-7 jobs, while investing the same amount into wind, solar, biomass and retrofitting creates between 13 and 17 jobs.
Hopefully studies such as this one will contribute to a change in global perception of renewable energy being a luxury.