Solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydro
Renewable energy sources – solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydro – could make important contributions to sustainable development. Currently, their exploitation in commercial markets is low, being constrained by costs and uncompensated benefits (externalities), as well as intermittent supplies and other technical and institutional considerations.
But they hold promise for:
- enhanced energy security by providing supplies that are abundant, diverse and indigenous (non-import dependent), with no resource exhaustion constraints;
- reduced global and local atmospheric emissions when used in place of fossil fuels;
- improved options to meet specific user and infrastructure needs, particularly in rural areas and in newly industrialising and developing countries; and
- increased local and regional employment opportunities in energy infrastructure manufacturing, installation and maintenance for developed and developing countries alike.
Over the next twenty years economically recoverable renewable resources will increase as a result of cost reductions from technological improvement and expanding markets, and new market valuations (e.g., of carbon emissions). Environmental concerns have increased the attraction of these sources to policy-makers and growth in demand in industrialised countries is leading to economies of scale.
Such growth enables increased access by the developing world.
Some renewable technologies are now commercially available and cost-competitive in particular market circumstances, but most are still at an early stage of development and technologically not mature. Their costs remain high, but are continuing to fall.
Further reductions are needed for them to compete broadly with the cheapest fossil-fuel alternatives.
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