London, UK [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] From time to time, Renewable Energy World magazine publishes articles presenting various scenarios about how a particular renewable technology, or a market, may develop over time. In fact in this issue, we present – albeit only as a taster – a new piece of work that looks at scenarios for growing the solar heat sector in Europe to 2020 and beyond.
A huge amount of detailed research underlies reports of this kind. And it’s generally the practice to look at a variety of growth scenarios: the ‘business as usual’, which assumes that growth will continue on its established curve; an accelerated growth scenario, which assumes that markets are influenced by strong, proactive policy measures and R&D investment; and a moderate growth scenario, which describes a middle path.
Some might question the value of this kind of modelling. After all, projections might be looking three or four decades into the future. There are surely countless external influences that can’t realistically be factored in – future commodity prices, for instance. Or – now tediously topical – the availability of business credit. And, by their nature, these projections are theoretical, sometimes appearing to be a long way from the industry reality of today.
Yet in spite of their obvious limitations, such studies play a vital role in growing the renewables sector. Assuming they are done well, the numbers do represent achievable growth curves. Vitally, they demonstrate to policymakers – that a sector really can deliver what’s needed in terms of clean and zero or low-carbon energy and economic benefits – given the right conditions. Thus they can give a push-start to policies and market incentives. And to those who set budgets and priorities for research, they provide a justification for directing funds and facilities towards these ends.
Perhaps they’re the equivalent of an architects’ model of a new building or city, adding tangibility and solidity to an otherwise vague vision of something that could be built.
And to industry and investors, to the people turning the handle, future scenarios – especially for renewable energy – act as a valuable signpost for the way ahead. Certainly the growth opportunities, and carbon reduction possibilities, for solar heat are impressive.
We look to the future elsewhere in this issue – for instance Lisa Wood takes a look at the way the US grid could adapt to accommodate much more renewables. And in our Last Word, Damian Miller writes about a transformation through solar electrification. Rooted firmly in the present are our features on China and on the Italian PV market, while Eize de Vries writes in great depth about wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, following a trip he and I made to see their impressive R&D facility this summer.
P.S. The Renewable Energy World team looks forward to seeing you this autumn, at the European Offshore Wind event or World Bioenergy in Stockholm, at PV-SEC in Hamburg, at Solar Power International in California, or at our own Renewable Energy World Asia event in Bangkok, 7–9 October. (See www.RenewableEnergyWorld.com for more information about that.)