The promise of a green and sustainable future paints the perfect picture; however, in reality, transitioning a world dependent on fossil fuels to renewable energies is not as easy as it sounds. One of the most important factors that is slowing this transition is the cost of renewable energies in comparison to traditional sources of energy.
This past Tuesday, June 5th, was the official World Environment Day and what better way to celebrate than to showcase the actual accessibility of renewable energy sources. On this day, Arturo Morales Acevedo, a scientist at the Mexican Centre of Research and Advanced Studies (CINESTAV), stated that in four years our global energy capacity will be surpassed and humanity will require double the energy that we currently generate. With this in mind, implementing a sustainable energy system is nothing less than an urgent matter.
“In actuality, at a global level, we require an installed capacity of 15 terawatts (15 trillion watts) and in 2050 we will require 30 terawatts. What this means is that we have to duplicate the quantity of energy that we are currently producing and generating electricity from hydrocarbons is not only pollutes the environment, but we also have to keep in mind that oil is a finite resource.” – Arturo Morales Acevedo
Today, 85% of the energy produced in Mexico comes from hydrocarbons and this leads to severe CO2 emissions which consequently affect specific regions and ecosystems throughout the country. According to Morales Acevedo, utilizing only 1% of the world’s solar radiation could produce electric energy to satisfy the demand of the next decades.
For this reason, it is a good thing that this week, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)—which is based in Abu Dhabi—published a series of reports titled ‘The Cost Analysis Series’ which declare that renewable power generation technologies are becoming increasingly competitive from the economical perspective. They account for half of all new power generation capacity additions in the world and are now the most economic solution for off-grid electrification and grid extension in most countries.
“A renewable revolution is underway. These papers show that the rapid deployment of renewable power generation technologies, and the corresponding rapid decline in costs are sustaining a virtuous circle,” said IRENA’s Director General, Mr. Adnan Z. Amin. “With these findings IRENA is helping to fill an important gap in the availability of objective, up-to-date information for decision-makers on the cost of generating electricity from these renewable power generation technologies.”
The following images depict the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from different renewable energy sources according to the IRENA reports:
Concentrating Solar Power:
Photovoltaic Solar Power:
When we compare the figures listed above to Mexico’s current electric tariff which ranges from 0.07-0.26 USD/kWh (according to the Federal Commission of Electricity), we can see how power from renewable energy sources is getting cheaper every year. With the price of these technologies decreasing as time goes by, it will be easier for the world to paint the picture of sustainability that it is aiming for.