London, UK It seems that advocates of renewable energy have always been possessed of a sometimes outlandish vision of a different way of doing things, a way that is cleaner, cheaper and more efficient.
A visit to the Masdar Institute, which in my case coincided with the recent Fourth World Future Energy Summit, proves that such visions are perhaps at last becoming a reality. The sweeping scale of the Masdar Initiative, which aims to advance the development and deployment of renewable energy and clean technologies, certainly presents one of the more grandiose visions of a clean energy, low consumption future. Although only the Masdar Institute is so far complete, conceived as a central part of an entirely new city, it nonetheless stands as a solid reminder of the scale of transformation that is required in how the world uses and sources its energy.
Indeed, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, speaking at the opening keynote address, appeared to summarise this sentiment by saying: ‘Our challenge is transformation; we need a global clean energy revolution, a revolution that makes energy available and affordable for all. We need to get our priorities right, but we are on the brink of an exciting sustainable future – clean energy for all.’
It is perhaps in an optimistic frame of mind, then, that in this edition of Renewable Energy World we explore a number of developments that reflect these issues of transformation and the challenges they present to the industry. In our lead analysis feature we consider the changing face of the thin-film PV sector as it addresses a market characterised by the falling cost of crystalline silicon and a move by a number of governments to curb the costs of solar support schemes. Meanwhile, we also discover if Vestas’ decision to scale back on its European manufacturing signals an end to the wind sector boom, an end to the dominance of European and US markets, or merely a shift in focus to new and emerging markets. We take a look at renewable energy activities in Taiwan, where new and long-awaited policy initiatives are driving the development of a domestic renewable energy infrastructure in a nation that has previously been heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels, but has succeeded in becoming a major exporter of photovoltaic cells and modules. And we review developments in the next generation transmission system that will in future transport vast quantities of offshore wind power to the load centres of Europe.
Clearly, as we begin 2011 there can be no doubt that the renewables industry is already undergoing a challenging transformation. With growing market competition, emerging markets and potentially disruptive technologies, constrained financing and doubts over the longevity of policy-backed financial support – there are certainly valid concerns. But there can also be no doubt that, compared with every other industrial sector, renewables have delivered a more than creditable performance over these turbulent economic times. So, despite these uncertainties, there is undoubtedly cause for optimism and Ban Ki-Moon is right to highlight the exciting times in which we live.