Plummeting renewable costs present ‘historic opportunity’ to build clean energy systems


The cost of generating power from renewable energy sources is plummeting and in many cases can now compete with fossil fuels, creating a “historic opportunity” to build sustainable energy systems and avert dangerous climate change, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

A report from the organisation concludes that biomass, hydropower, biothermal and onshore wind are all now competitive with or cheaper than coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even without financial support and falling oil prices. Solar has seen price fall the most, with module costs falling 75% since the end of 2009, demonstrating how renewable technology is becoming cheaper.

Adnan Amin, director-general of IRENA, commented, “Renewable energy projects across the globe are now matching or outperforming fossil fuels, particularly when accounting for externalities like local pollution, environmental damage and ill health.

“The game has changed; the plummeting price of renewables is creating a historic opportunity to build clean, sustainable energy systems and avert catastrophic climate change in an affordable way.”

A record high of 120 gigawatts of renewable energy was added to the global energy mix in 2013, with a similar figure forecast for 2014. Renewable energy accounted for 22% of global electricity generation in 2013 and IRENA argues that for the 1.3 billion people globally without electricity, renewables are the cheapest source of energy.

Amin added, “Now is the time for a step-change in deployment for renewables. It has never been cheaper to avoid dangerous climate change, create jobs, reduce fuel import bills and future-proof our energy systems.

“This requires public acknowledgement of the low price of renewables, an end to subsidies for fossil fuels, and regulations and infrastructure to support the global energy transition.”

Photo:  Joe-Zlomek via Freeimages

Further reading:

Energy security, fuel poverty and social change: the lowdown on renewables

Falling cost of solar to blame for European renewables investment drop

Sustainable energy becoming cost effective option, says report

Renewable energy investment drops as technology becomes cheaper

IRENA: renewables key to delivering cheaper energy