The use of energy from renewable sources has gained momentum over the past few years. The amount of installed capacity globally has risen to the amazement of energy industry players. The rapid development in technology, coupled with a positive regulatory environment has seen it continue to spread throughout the world. In the early 2000s no one could have predicted its meteoric rise. The continued upheaval in the oil rich regions has been a key factor in this trend. Countries seeking energy security for economic prosperity are continually turning to alternative energy.
A majority of cities and economies today are powered by conventional fossil fuel energy. However, it is obvious that these supplies cannot sustain the world energy demand indefinitely. That means the world must look for an alternative source of energy. In the year 2008, renewable energy accounted for only 6.7 percent of total global energy used, however, data from the International Energy Association estimates that renewables could rise to 25% of gross power generation in 2018, up from 20% in 2011 as deployment spreads out globally.
The burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) account for account for 2/3 of the emissions of carbon dioxide since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Of all the non-renewable energy sources, coal is the most inefficient. Compared to natural gas, it produces about 45% more CO2 for the same amount of heat as natural gas. This makes natural gas a much cleaner source of energy, though it is still harmful. Despite this, 39% of all electricity generated in the United States was sourced from coal power plants in 2014.
By some estimates, fossil fuels could start running out as soon as fifty to one hundred years from now. The huge variations are due to uncertainty in future economic and population growth that will lead to increased demand for energy. However, it is of interest to note that the United States produced 22% of all global output of renewable energy in 2014. This is a positive step in the right direction this massive economy. Despite producing almost a quarter of the world’s renewable energy, the U.S. has lagged behind other countries such as Germany in the use of solar energy. Only 4% of U.S. energy production is derived from solar versus 9% for Germany even though they have far less solar resources than the U.S.
The European Solar Association estimates that solar power could meet up to 26% of all global demand for energy by 2040. This represents a real opportunity for job creation and real economic growth.
Much progress has been made in transitioning the world to cleaner, renewable energy use but much work remains to be done.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.