Renewables now make up 26% of global electricity generation, second after coal

Renewable energy is derived from resources that are replenished on a human timescale; examples include sunlight, wind, rains, waves, tides, geothermal heat and biomass. Renewable energy is used in three main areas: electricity generation, air and water heating and cooling, and transportation. Renewables are also suited to provide off-grid energy solutions in rural and remote areas. The overall production and use of renewable energy usually produce minimal greenhouse gases and have the potential to significantly reduce air pollution compared to hydrocarbon alternatives. Deployment of renewable energy also has potential energy security benefits, with renewable resources spread over wide geographical areas.

In light of the current greenhouse gas-driven warming of the climate and the associated impacts, a global transition to low carbon energy is underway with renewable energy at the forefront. Related technologies are rapidly becoming more efficient and falling in costs; some renewable energy forms like solar PV and onshore wind that once depended heavily on government support are now at or approaching cost-parity with fossil fuel generation. Since most renewables produce electricity, increasing the share of renewable energy in the whole energy system can be achieved by electrifying the heat and transport sectors, in combination with increasing the proportion of electricity provided by renewables. Besides electrification, the transport sector can benefit from biofuels which can substitute for oil products. The heat sector can see further deployment of solar water heating, biomass-fuelled burners and direct geothermal heating. Renewable energy is expected to continue expanding its share in the energy mix, as costs come down, innovative technologies are commercialised, and environmental drivers strengthen. In the short term, the EU has a target for 20% of all electricity to be generated from renewables by 2020. However, to meet long-term climate and sustainability goals, renewable energy deployment must accelerate in all sectors, enabled by policy and markets.

You can find further information below about the technologies, costs and current developments within each of the seven major types of renewables:

For the latest news and articles on renewable energy read Energy World.

Learn more about renewables by reading our Energy Insights.

View upcoming consultations and policies on renewables on our Policy Milestones Calendar.

What's new?

Small islands promote innovation in renewables

Islands present their own particular challenges for energy suppliers, with new on-site renewable schemes challenging the more traditional shipping of fossil fuels to run generators. Here, Keith Nuthall, Mark Rowe, Gemma Handy and Poorna Rodrigo round-up some schemes – from Scotland to Dominica.

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Eni partners in new renewables venture

Italy’s Eni (69.6%) and the Norwegian energy investor HitecVision (30.4%) have formed a new joint venture company, Vårgrønn, with the aim of developing new green energy projects in Norway and the Nordic market.The new joint venture marks the start of a broader strategic cooperation between Eni and H...

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BP and Ørsted to create renewable hydrogen partnership in Germany

BP and Ørsted have signed a letter of intent (LOI) to jointly develop a ‎project for industrial-scale production of green hydrogen, made by the electrolysis of water using ‎renewable power and producing zero emissions.In their proposed Lingen green hydrogen project, the companies plan to build an in...

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Renewables jobs hit new record last year

Renewables accounted for an estimated 11.5mn jobs worldwide in 2019, up from 11mn the previous year, according to figures compiled by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The agency’s annual jobs review revealed that solar PV led the sector, with some 3.8mn jobs, or one third of the to...

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Government cuts its estimates of costs of renewable electricity

The UK government has officially recognised recent and dramatic falls in the cost of generating electricity from renewable sources – particularly wind and solar – in updated estimates of the ‘levelised cost of electricity’ (LCOE). Published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Stra...

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Events and training

EI LIVE free webinar | COVID-19: What does this mean for the fight against the climate crisis?

Host Partner: The Sustainability Forum is endorsed by: Free online launch event for the Middle East Sustainability Forum 2021 9 December 2020, 09:00 GMT |12:00 Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia | 13:00 UAE and Oman Platform: WebexPlease note that registration closes at 17:00 on 8 Decembe...

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EI LIVE Free Webinar | Maximising System Value of the Energy Transition

Sponsored by:Join the World Economic Forum, Accenture, Enel, Sempra and Hitachi ABB Power Grids in a discussion on maximising the system value of the energy transition.

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EI LIVE | Energy Storage Fundamentals for Energy Security - March 2021

<p> This 2-day virtual blended training course will allow you to gain a comprehensive understanding of energy security awareness and learn how to achieve energy security at national and power generator levels. It provides knowledge of energy storage systems as we transition from fossil fuel ba...

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Level 1 Certificate in Energy Management - Nigeria - March 2021

This introductory 5-day classroom course provides a comprehensive, practical overview of the fundamentals of energy management, equipping participants with all the essential knowledge and skills they need to save energy, reduce operational costs and carbon emissions, comply with legislation and...

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EI LIVE Free Webinar | Hydrogen: hype or hope?

Could hydrogen mark the beginning of a new era for clean energy in UK and Europe?Please note that registration closes at 17:00 on 20 April 2021EI Knowledge Partner:Sponsor:

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Technical guidance publications

Traditional Mandarin translation - G+ Integrated Offshore Emergency Response (G+ IOER) Good practice guidelines for offshore renewable energy developments

This publication is available to download for free.此出版物可免費下載。This is the traditional Mandarin translation of the publication G+ Integrated Offshore Emergency Response (G+ IOER) Good practice guidelines for offshore renewable energy developments. The English version of this title can be dow...

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SafetyOn Onshore Emergency Response. Good practice guidelines for onshore wind energy developments

This publication is available to download for free.This document aims to provide a process that, if followed, should allow the Duty Holder to develop site-specific plans and procedures to mitigate the consequence of incidents and help protect casualties until they can be delivered to an ultimate pla...

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Battery storage guidance note 3: Design, construction and maintenance

This publication is free to download. Please log in to see the download option.This publication captures learning and experience from battery storage construction projects, with special emphasis on ensuring the safety of such projects to people and environment.Based on industry interviews and availa...

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Good practice guideline - Offshore wind farm transfer

This guidance provides a framework of how to execute a safe transfer in an offshore wind farm in order to provide consistency and good practice regarding transfer across the wind industry and to allow operators and vessel owners to produce or to verify their transfer procedure up against a set of in...

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G+ Safe by design Workshop report update: WTG service lifts – follow-up on workshop conclusions

This publication is available to download for free for registered users.A Safe by Design workshop on wind turbine generator (WTG) service lifts was held on 22 September 2016 in London. From this workshop a report was published, with recommendations (G+ Safe by Design workshop report: WTG service lif...

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