Renewable energy: What were the governments discussing in Abu Dhabi?

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Government officials gathered in Abu Dhabi in mid-January to discuss what is happening in renewable energy markets worldwide. The meeting is an annual assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Governments have reasons for optimism. After all, renewable energy in breaking records. In terms of power capacity additions, renewables have already surpassed conventional power generation in 2015. Costs are going down.

It is symbolic that a solar PV tender in the city where the delegates were meeting received the lowest priced PV bid ever at 0.0242 USD/kWh in 2016.

Still, number of issues were raised, which will occupy government bodies dealing with renewable energy in coming months and years:

1. Renewables in power generation have seen a lot of success, but other sectors are trailing behind. Heating and industrial use of renewable energy were specifically mentioned by the IEA as areas for future development.

2. Integration of renewable energy in power systems is still an issue. Peak demand needs to be covered and this is where the cheapest technology for the moment, solar, is failing without adequate storage solutions.

Governments are looking for innovative ways to build large scale energy storage capacities at grid scale to cover peak demand needs.

3. Renewable energy and energy efficiency will require more integration. Governments will be looking at policy and regulatory measures based on better technology solutions.

4. Digitalisation of renewable energy is a huge opportunity for running systems more efficiently. However, security of power systems is a concern for governments. We might see new regulations addressing security requirements for data management.

As a point of reference, one third of the global oil demand growth comes from trucks in Asia.

6. There is still room to ramp up renewable energy investment in the overall energy context. Out of the USD 1.8 trillion invested globally in energy in 2016, only 15% went into renewables.

7. Innovation is the last topic, which really encompasses all of those above. What both governments and industry can agree on is that more innovation is required to make all renewable energy technologies commercially viable.

Katarina Hasbani