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Shiv Vembadi posted: How much of the world is currently powered by renewable energy? What would be the case in 2020? 2 years ago

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Narasimhan Santhanam . Thanks for the question, Shiv. And a pretty important one too at that,

Before I answer, I would like to spell out what I mean by Renewable energy. In addition to solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and ocean based (tidal/wave), hydropower is also renewable energy, though many do not consider it while discussing renewables, owing to a confusion between alternative and renewable sources (hydro is not alternative energy as it has been a conventional source for long, but IS renewable).

If we agree on the above definition, the total installed capacity of renewable energy sources end of 2016 was around 2.3 TW (2300 GW), with hydro contributing about 60% in terms of installed capacity (about 1300 GW), and the rest of renewables contributing about 1 TW (1000 GW). Of the non-hydro renewable sources, solar and wind will claim a large share (about 900 GW).

Given that the total global installed capacity of electricity is about 6.4 TW, the total % share of renewable power capacity is about 35%, quite a substantial share. However, when it comes to power generation (and not just capacity), the share of renewable will be a shade under 20% - my best estimate is somewhere almost 20%, with hydro contributing about 16.5, wind about 2%, solar and biomass giving about 1.5% together.

So, currently, in terms of installed capacity, renewable sources of power has about 35%, and in terms of generation, about 20%.

But as you can see, the elephant in the room is hydro power. If you take hydro power from the equation, the % share of renewable energy sources to the world's electricity consumption comes crashing down to just 3.5%.

Shiv Vembadi . Mr. Narasimhan, that's a lot of useful information. Thank you. So, if solar and wind are currently only about 3% to the total electricity demand, when do you think that could become 10% or 30%? Like

Narasimhan Santhanam . @Shiv - a difficult thing to predict. All I know in terms of formal estimate is that IEA thinks solar power will be the single largest generation source for electricity by 2050 - solar PV and CSP combined could contribute about 27% of total - Link />
Of course, 2050 is too far into the future to predict, or for that matter, bother about for the ordinary I and you.

If I were to take a guess, consider it a guess and no more, by 2020, renewables (excluding hydro) would be contributing about 4.5%-5%, and by 2025, possibly about 8%. A 10% contribution could take until close to 2030.

A 30% for solar and wind together would perhaps happen around 2040-2042, if we go with the above IEA estimates.

Prediction far into the future is a nice game isn't it? It's so far away, no one is gone to point fingers at you when I'm wrong - because it will take some 25 years to find out if if I am :-)

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Nikhil Vinay posted: Many do not consider hydro power as renewable energy. Why is it so? 2 years ago

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Narasimhan Santhanam . Excellent question, Nikhil.

However, I might have to add a small rider - and it has to do with the term Renewable...because, this term and the term Alternative are sometimes used interchangeably...though technically they mean completely different things.

You see, most (if not all) industry professionals do not consider hydro power to be an alternative source of energy, and rightly so, because hydro power has been a conventional source of energy for very long - in fact, in many countries, the first units of electricity over a century back were generated from hydro power plants.

Thus, clearly, hydro power plants (small or large) are not alternative energy power plants.

But, are they renewable? Without a doubt, yes. Water is a renewable resource, and hence, it is a no-brainer that so is energy dependent on water.

So, folks are wrong when they do not include hydro power under Renewable Energy. They are however absolutely correct when they exclude it from Alternative Energy!

Here's a related post I put in the blog I run - Cleantech Guide. You might be interested in reading it when time permits.


Divya Prabha M.V . I have also heard about reservoirs associated with large hydro-electric projects being a major source of CO2 emissions. So hydel power is not exactly as green as we think it is. Please comment Like

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