The wide-ranging environmental, economic and employment benefits of the rapidly expanding RE (renewable energy) sector are multiple and go beyond solely electricity generation. “New” RE sources, i.e. wind, solar, marine energy and biomass are now the fastest-growing power source on a percentage basis with hydropower representing the biggest share. This rapid growth is driven by a constant need for electricity and environmental concerns to also reduce the use of fossil fuels in power generation.
Economic benefits and challenges
According to a BNEF (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) April 2014 report, investments for REs could range between USD 470 billion (USD 6 100 billion cumulative) and USD 880 billion (USD 9 300 billion cumulative) by 2030. Although these figures should be taken with caution, they highlight a growing market and societal interest. Tax-breaks and subsidies to bring the price of RE-generated electricity to that of other sources, causes costs to decline equally rapidly, making renewables increasingly competitive. However some utilities find their conventional power plants, which are generally still needed for backup, become unprofitable. As a result, some countries are considering or cutting financial incentives for RE installations. Nevertheless, employment opportunities should continue to grow in manufacturing, equipment distribution, site preparation, installation and also benefit industry suppliers. With production gradually moving to developing countries, prospects in REs should be promising there too especially in the MRO (maintenance, repair and operations/overhaul) sector.
The extensive standardization work done by several IEC TCs (Technical Committees) and SCs (Subcommittees) is crucial in the development of the RE sector and its associated technologies. A summary of recent developments follows in our recent e-tech.
Written by Jewel Thomas