Potential and barriers for renewable energy

In order to mitigate climate change a global transition from fossil energy sources to renewable energy is required. However, there are large barriers for renewable energy, and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) renewable energy will only have a small share of the global energy market in 2030.

Bellona has analysed the barriers and the future potential for renewable energy. A paper with all the results can be downloaded as a PDF file from the box to the right. A summary of the paper is given below.

Currently, only around 13 percent of global energy demand is met by renewable energy sources. While a significant increase in renewable energy production is expected in the future, a similar increase is expected in global energy demand. This means renewable energy will maintain only a small part of the total share of energy production towards 2030.

The most relevant sources of renewable energy are wind, solar, biomass, hydro, wave, tidal and geothermic heat. Common denominators for all these sources are the realizable potential being far below the theoretical potential. An assessment of the potential of energy production using renewable energy sources must be based on a barrier analysis, as well as an analysis of the environmental impact from each of the different technologies.

An increased implementation of renewable energy productions is slowed down by economic, technical, land use, social and environmental barriers. Especially the technical, environmental and social barriers related to renewable energy sources indicate the continued domination of fossil energy sources also in 2030.

According to the International Energy Agency, IEA, only 16 percent of global energy demand in 2030, can be covered by renewable sources. A widespread effort could result in a share of renewable energy beyond the estimates by the IEA, this would require new financial incentives as well as other measures to reduce particularly the economic barriers related to renewable energy production.

The limited potential for renewable energy is a strong indication that energy production from fossil fuels with CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS) is an important option for reducing global CO2 emissions and mitigating clamte change.

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Aage Stangeland