Much achieved, but much more needed, say report
Significant advances in solar, wind and nuclear have been registered, but new challenges are also emerging, according to the World Energy Resources 2016 report
Despite notable progress in renewables, the rate of improvement towards cleaner energy is proceeding far slower than required to meet emissions targets. This is the stark message provided by the World Energy Resources 2016 report launched at WEC on 12 October. Public acceptance remains a challenge, regardless of the energy sources, with an increased "not in My back yard (nimby)" attitude to the development of energy sources, says the report, which is now in its 83rd year of publication. "Public acceptance remains a challenge," acknowledged Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer, Chair, World Energy Resources.
This has implications for energy companies. Without diversification, the report warns that national and international oil and gas companies could struggle over the medium-to longer term. As incentives are decreased, some renewable energy companies may no longer be viable.
Despite that, Schiffer highlighted some positive trends. In solar, global installed capacity has seen exponential growth, reaching around 227 gigawatts (GW) at end-2015-accounting for 1% of all electricity used worldwide. The cost of solar PV have also plummeted, said Schiffer, with module prices down 80 percent since 2007 to $1.8/W in 2015.
A record 63GW of wind power was added in 2015 and total investment in the global sector was $109bn that year.
As incentives are decreased, some renewable energy companies may no longer be viable
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is also a central element of a low carbon energy future, but here, policy is the main issue rather than technology. There are 22 large-scale CCS projects in operation or under construction around the world, with the capacity to capture up to 40 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Last year was also a good one for nuclear, said Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association. "Nuclear energy has doubled the capacity put on line in the last 25 years," she said. "New construction is also at a 25-year high, with 65 rectors under construction with a capacity of 64GW."
Two-thirds of the units under construction are located in three countries-China, India and Russia. Currently there are 45 small modular rector designs under development and four such reactors under actual construction.
"In the current situation we have uranium resources at reasonable prices that could last for at least 100 years," Rising explained. "If prices go up we can find more uranium, as there are vast deposits in the sea".
Richard Taylor, Chief Executive Officer at the International Hydropower Association, underlined hydropower's status as the leading renewable source of electricity generation globally, supplying 71 percent of all renewable electricity at end-2015.
Globally, 33.7GW of hydropower capacity was added in 2015, including 2.5GW of pumped storage. China accounted for nearly 20GW of this. "100 countries across the world now have hydro power in their electricity systems," said Taylor.
Africa had significant upside in terms of inward investment, he said, "There is 30GW being developed currently, excluding the very largest megaproject," he said.
Financial instruments are also boosting hydropower. "Hydropower accounts for a third of all energy-themed climate bonds globally. BKK Norway issued $171m green hydro bond which was oversubscribed in three hours," he said.