Steadily growing demand for electricity and efforts to reduce the share of fossil fuels in power generation, so cutting both noxious emissions and dependence on imports, have led to a rapid expansion of the RE (renewable energy) sector. This shift has consequences for the environment, economy and labour market in many countries and regions of the world. Estimates vary greatly, but all point to systemic changes in a number of area.
Making a virtue of necessity
Mounting concern about the negative environmental impact of the use of fossil fuels and the need to have a truly sustainable energy sector have led to reconsideration of the respective shares of primary energies in the overall electricity generation chain. This has resulted in efforts to increase the contribution of “new” RE sources, i.e. wind, solar, marine energy and biomass, in addition to hydropower, which currently accounts for the lion’s share of electricity produced from renewable sources.
This trend has led to the rapid and massive expansion of non-hydro RE resources. Renewables are now the fastest-growing power source on a percentage basis. RE made up less than 1,5% of electricity generation capacity in 1990, but its contribution had increased nearly 4,5-fold (in volume) by 2010, whilst electricity production less than doubled during the same period.
The IEA (International Energy Agency) forecasts that the share of RE sources in total power production will rise from 20% in 2011 to 31% in 2035 in its so-called 450 Scenario (i.e. assuming any policies adopted have a 50% chance of limiting the global increase in average temperature to 2oC).
The wide-ranging environmental, economic and employment benefits of the fast expanding RE sector are obvious on a global scale, despite sometimes being difficult to quantify. However, one thing is certain: none of these positive results could be achieved without the extensive standardization work carried out by the large number of IEC TCs (Technical Committees) and SCs (Subcommittees) involved in the development of the RE sector and all its associated technologies.
Written by Morand Fachot for our e-tech Magazine. To find out more check out our e-tech article.