Renewable Energy Technologies

Wim C Turkenburg, Jos Beurskens, André Faaij, Peter Fraenkel, Ingvar Fridleifsson, Erik Lysen, David Mills, Jose Roberto Moreira, Lars J Nilsson, Anton Schaap, Wim C Sinke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


In 1998 renewable energy sources supplied 56 ± 10 exajoules,or about 14 percent of world primary energy consumption. Thesupply was dominated by traditional biomass (38 ± 10 exajoules a year.
Other major contributions came from large hydropower (9 exajoules a year) and from modern biomass (7 exajoules). The contribution of all other
renewables — small hydropower, geothermal, wind, solar, and marineenergy — was about 2 exajoules. That means that the energy supply from new renewables was about 9 exajoules (about 2 percent of world consumption). The commercial primary energy supply from renewable sources was 27 ± 6 exajoules (nearly 7 percent of world consumption), with 16 ± 6 exajoules from biomass.
Renewable energy sources can meet many times the present world energy demand, so their potential is enormous. They can enhance diversity in energy supply markets, secure long-term sustainable energy supplies, and reduce local and global atmospheric emissions. They can also provide commercially attractive options to meet specific needs for energy services (particularly in developing countries and rural areas), create new employment opportunities, and offer possibilities for local manufacturing of equipment.
There are many renewable technologies. Although often commerciallyavailable, most are still at an early stage of development and not technically mature. They demand continuing research, development, and demonstration efforts. In addition, few renewable energy technologies can compete with
conventional fuels on cost, except in some niche markets. But substantial cost reductions can be achieved for most renewables, closing gaps and
making them more competitive. That will require further technology development and market deployment — and boosting production capacities to mass production.
For the long term and under very favourable conditions, the lowest cost to produce electricity might be $0.01–0.02 a kilowatt-hour for geothermal,
$0.03 a kilowatt-hour for wind and hydro, $0.04 a kilowatt-hour for solar thermal and biomass, and $0.05–0.06 a kilowatt-hour for photovoltaics and marine currents. The lowest cost to produce heat might be $0.005 a kilowatt-hour for geothermal, $0.01 a kilowatt-hour for biomass, and $0.02–0.03 a kilowatt-hour for solar thermal. The lowest cost to produce fuels might be $1.5 a gigajoule for biomass, $6–7 a gigajoule for ethanol,
$7–10 a gigajoule for methanol, and $6–8 a gigajoule for hydrogen.
Scenarios investigating the potential of renewables reveal that they might contribute 20–50 percent of energy supplies in the second half of the 21st century. A transition to renewables-based energy systems would have to rely on:
Successful development and diffusion of renewable energy technologies that become more competitive through cost reductions from technological and organisational developments.
Political will to internalise environmental costs and other externalities that permanently increase fossil fuel prices.
Many countries have found ways to promote renewables. As renewable energy activities grow and require more funding, the tendency in many countries is to move away from methods that let taxpayers carry the burden of promoting renewables, towards economic and regulatory methods that let energy consumers carry the burden.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld energy assessment: energy and the challenge of sustainability
EditorsJosé Goldemberg
PublisherUnited Nations Development Programme
ISBN (Print)92-1-126126-0
Publication statusPublished - 2000

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Energy Systems


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