The International Energy Agency (IEA) this month expectedly forecast more healthy growth for global renewable energy this decade.
But in beefing up its headline, itself conditioned by several caveats, it glossed over the most important conclusion that could, but wasn’t, extrapolated from its report: it’s time to unwind costly public subsidies for the maturing industry and to allow it to compete openly with other technologies.
The IEA’s Renewable Energy Medium Term Market Report is a thorough analysis and forecast of the sector between 2005 and 2017. All the numbers are there, but its empirical conclusions fail to offer a critical analysis and realistic policy advice –which is precisely the IEA’s mission.
Renewable energy is already a reality. In some European countries, like Spain, wind and solar power supply close to 30 percent of electricity demand, although in the United States it doesn’t even reach 5 percent. It just all depends on each country’s economic and energy security concerns.
But the IEA breezes through what should be its main conclusion: renewable power is an alternative source that should only be exploited when there is a net gain, economic or geopolitical, not because of an ideological imperative.
The report reads like a pro-renewable exercise in number manipulation. To begin with, hydroelectric power is included as a renewable, despite that most governments and even environmental groups exclude large hydro from the renewable label because it’s not subsidized and because it generally generates a lot more power than renewable from its nominal installed capacity.
Hydropower in 2011 accounted for 80 percent of global renewable output, and by 2017 it will decrease its share to 70 percent. Without it, the total contribution of renewable power to global power demand is less than 5 percent.