IRENA, IEA and REN21 present policies to accelerate the renewable energy transition
07 September 2018 | Mitigation
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), International Energy Agency (IEA), and Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) published a joint report titled, ‘Renewable Energy Policies in a Time of Transition.’ The publication provides policymakers with a comprehensive understanding of the diverse policy options to support the development of renewables across sectors, technologies, country contexts, energy market structures, and policy objectives. The report’s general conclusion is that, despite rapid technology development in renewable energy and energy efficiency, additional measures and more comprehensive policies are needed to achieve the energy transition.
The report is divided into five chapters providing: general background information; in-depth analysis of status, trends and policies for renewable energy in heating and cooling, transport, and power generation; and a chapter on policies for integrating renewables and transforming power systems.
Key policy takeaways for heating and cooling include that: renewable heat and energy efficiency policies should be closely aligned to ensure that waste heat is minimized; and multiple barriers to renewable energy expansion call for a range of policy instruments, often in combination. The report also discusses the need for long-term coherent strategies, using recent progress in Nordic states as an example. For instance, Sweden first introduced an energy tax on natural gas for heating the 1980s. Denmark has also applied energy taxes to fossil fuels for heating, with some exemptions for biomass. While Finland was also an early adopter of carbon taxes, the country needs to address remaining exemptions for peat, a high-carbon fuel.
Regarding the transport sector, the report outlines three areas for policy intervention: the availability of fuels from renewable energy sources, the deployment of vehicles that can use renewable fuels, and the development of energy and fuel distribution infrastructure. On transport regulations, for example, the analysis shows that successful policies include fiscal and financial incentives to promote biofuel production, distribution and production.
On power generation, the publication notes that renewable electricity is growing rapidly, but power sources grow at different speeds as some face more barriers than others. Only 15% of the global potential for geothermal energy is being harnessed to date, for example. Experiences from Kenya, Turkey and Nicaragua show that growth in geothermal energy can be accelerated through policies the reduce risk, such as government-supported early-stage drilling with project development undertaken by the private sector for geothermal power. The report indicates that other effective policies for power production include: renewable energy targets utilizing a solid framework and effective quotas; regulatory and pricing policies supporting socioeconomic development; distributed generation supported by fiscal incentives; financing and risk-mitigation to attract investments; and voluntary purchase programmes for renewable energy that can also be applied to corporate entities.
The final chapter discusses how power systems can be transformed to better integrate variable renewable energy (VRE), such as wind and photovoltaic solar. The report suggests that in order to integrate rapid growth in VRE capacity policies should focus on: direct policy support for renewable energy, enabling policies for ensuring effectiveness of energy systems and energy markets, and integrating policies that allow full integration in the energy system such as awareness programs aimed at behavioral changes.