The International Energy Agency (IEA), an autonomous energy data collector and policy advisor to governments around the world, has reported that renewable energy sources (particularly wind and solar) will outpace natural gas in electricity production by 2016. This will also put it ahead of nuclear energy production by double. The IEA is known for giving conservative figures for energy projections, so this comes as particularly exciting news.
Solar and Wind Energy to Reach New Levels Worldwide
Total global renewable electricity generation is expected to grow from the 2012 level of 4,860 terawatt-hours to 6,850 terawatt-hours in 2018. This represents an increase of about 40% in clean energy generation over just a few years and an almost 50% increase in total renewable energy capacity.
Between 2012 and 2018, wind generation alone is expected to increase from 519 terawatt-hours to 1,220 terawatt-hours, more than doubling output. Solar energy is projected to make even greater advancements, tripling output from 100 terawatt-hours to 358 terawatt-hours.
Much of this growth is poised to take place in countries outside of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (an international organization of 34 countries striving to stimulate world trade and global economic progress). These non-OECD countries include Brazil, China, India, and other nations that are exploring more energy efficient options and clean energy solutions. However, the US is also projected to make strong developments in its renewable energy industry.
Renewable Energy in the United States
In America, solar PV capacity is expected to quadruple from 7.7 gigawatts to 31 gigawatts. Wind capacity is expected to increase half again from 58.8 gigawatts to 93 gigawatts. This is a boom to the American jobs market. In 2012, 119,000 people worked in solar-related industries (including solar panel installers, photovoltaic technology developers, and solar system manufacturers) while 75,000 people worked full-time in wind energy development. With the greater capacity, more jobs will be created to develop, install, and maintain more renewable energy systems.
Market Competition of Renewable vs. Traditional Energy
Although renewable energy is becoming more competitive across the board, different forms of energy are more competitive in different markets. For example, in southern California and nations like Denmark and Australia, the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is already below that of fossil fuels. LCOE is calculated by determining all costs incurred over lifetime generation (includes set up and maintenance of the generation facility, governmental incentives, fuel use, etc.).
Regional costs and incentives vary greatly from place to place, so location plays a major role in LCOE. For example, while onshore wind is now competitive with gas-fired plants in Brazil and Chile, that is not the case in the US. Overall, however, the old argument that renewable energy isn’t competitive with traditional energy is being disproven all around the world, creating even greater opportunities for those who want to pursue one of many exciting renewable energy careers.