Bioenergy, Solar

Renewable Energy Addresses Energy Security

A recent publication, Renewable Energy: RD&D Priorities, Insights from IEA Technology Programmes, recommends priorities for implementing renewable energy technologies, drawing on studies, analyses and technology programs carried out by the IEA technology network.

Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), who launched the publication, said “Renewable energy technologies are a crucial element in achieving a balanced global energy future; renewables can make major contributions to the diversity and security of energy supply and to economic development.” The publication also reviews the trends in government RD&D spending and lists RD&D policies in IEA member countries. “Countries must improve their market deployment strategies for renewable energy technologies and above all, increase targeted renewables RD&D,” said Mandil, “simultaneously ensuring continued cost-competitiveness. There is much at stake.” Government energy RD&D budgets in IEA member countries increased sharply after the oil price shocks of the 1970s. By 1987 however, they had declined to about two-thirds of their peak level and stagnated until 2003. The share of renewable energy technologies in total energy RD&D spending remained relatively stable, averaging 7.6% for the whole period. Among renewable energy technologies, the shares in global funding of biomass, solar photovoltaic and wind have increased, while those of ocean, geothermal and concentrating solar power have declined — broadly reflecting the evolving consensus as to where the greatest potential lies. Of course, there are great variations in the balance of spending of individual countries, reflecting resource potential and national energy policies. The United States, Japan and Germany are the biggest total spenders on energy technology RD&D, although Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands are the leaders on a spending per capita basis. The purpose of the IEA publication is to assist governments in prioritizing their RD&D efforts for renewable energy. RD&D activities have played a major role in the successful development and commercialization of a range of new renewable energy technologies in recent years. But renewables RD&D should not be left solely to government, claims the release. Industry can be expected and should be encouraged to play a major role in the development of all technologies, whether or not yet commercially available. Recent IEA analysis demonstrates consensus that RD&D in renewable energy must be strengthened, but with a caveat that priorities must be well selected, in order to address priority policy objectives, especially as they relate to prospective cost-effectiveness.