Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 4/07

Renewable energy in future energy supply:
a renaissance in waiting

Marianne Haug
University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, and
Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, Oxford, Great Britain


Renewable energy has hardly kept pace with global energy supply since 1990, despite two digit growth rates for wind energy, solar PV, and biofuels and despite ambitious national and regional targets for renewable energy expansion in a large number of countries. In 2005, renewables accounted for 12.7% of global energy supply of which more than half is traditional biomass in developing countries. While global growth is still stagnating, the composition of renewables is changing towards “modern” renewables for electricity, heating and transport. The potential of renewables to supply mankind with energy is huge. No resource constraints exist for solar, wind, geothermal and wave, but only a two to three fold expansion of hydro energy is likely, and no consensus exists about the limits for sustainable bioenergy. Carbon constraint and market pull policies for renewables should support an accelerated uptake of renewables in the coming decade as other low carbon technologies have not yet reached the commercialization stage or struggle for social acceptance. Over the medium and long-term, renewables will have to compete not only with fossil fuel, but with new low or zero carbon technologies or transformatory energy carriers. Thus, the share of renewables in future energy supply is likely to reach a plafond as countries aim for diversity, and adopt a mix of energy policies. Policies – more than cost or resources – will determine the speed of renewables growth and its overall contribution to future energy supply in the next decades.

Keywords: renewable energy, bioenergy, scenarios, potentials

JEL: Q 200

Vol. 46 (2007), No. 4: 305-324