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?

How US cities and counties are getting renewable energy

Cities are a core driver of climate change, accounting for more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. Precisely because they are such big GHG emitters, cities can be at the forefront in tackling climate change by leading the switch to clean energy. Over the last five years, more U.S. cities have sta...

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Solar boom not fading as renewables confidence on the rise

While the boom in solar rooftop installations shows little sign of tapering, investor confidence in clean energy is rising strongly, led by interest in New South Wales’ new renewables zones. 

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Renewables now cheaper than most existing competitors – IRENA

More than half of the renewable capacity added across the world last year achieved lower power costs than the cheapest new coal plants, according to new figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The data indicates that renewables have almost crossed a crucial price threshold, ...

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US grid could be ‘90% green’ by 2035 – if policy favours renewables

The US could achieve 90% clean, carbon-free electricity nationwide by 2035, according to a new report from researchers from the University of California, Berkeley. The 2035 Report uses the latest renewable energy and battery cost data to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of achievi...

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Equinor leading the field for oil majors promising renewable investments

Investments in solar and wind energy projects by the world’s oil majors until 2025 are expected to exceed $18bn, a Rystad Energy analysis finds. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that some $10bn, or 55% of the amount, is expected to be invested by a single company, Equinor, the only operator ...

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Events and training

EI LIVE | Level 1 Certificate in Energy Management - August 2020

This introductory 5 day virtual blended 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 an...

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EI LIVE | Energy Efficiency: The Road to Net Zero

Discover the latest approaches and strategies in energy efficiency that can help the UK reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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EI LIVE | Level 1: Certificate in Energy Management Essentials - September 2020

About: This introductory 5 day virtual blended 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 legisla...

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EI LIVE | Level 3: Advanced Energy Manager

This 10-day virtual blended course is an advanced qualification aiming to support experienced energy managers to further advance their careers by gaining the skills and knowledge required to function successfully at a senior level and be able to manage energy across a wide range of business areas, a...

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EL LIVE Free Webinar | Powering net zero

A free webinar, held ahead of the 2021 conference, to discuss the latest strategies needed to reach net zero.8 October 2020: 9:00 - 10:40 BST

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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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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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Case study on reducing manual handling and ergonomics related incidents in the offshore wind industry

This document provides support and practical examples to help reduce MH&E related incidents in the offshore wind industry. The requirement for support and guidelines to reduce MH incidents in the offshore wind industry originates from:Reporting that indicates that MH injuries are one of the larg...

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Battery storage guidance note 2: Battery energy storage system fire planning and response

This publication is free to download. Please log in to see the download option.This publication provides guidance on how to respond to BESS fires. It represents the 'current state' of knowledge (in 2019), but also identifies gaps in knowledge. The guidance covers primarily non-domestic battery insta...

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