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The Global Shift Towards Renewable Energy

Over the past decade, a significant shift towards renewable energy has occurred in response to climate change and global legislative commitments. Nearly 200 countries have committed to attempting to keep temperature increases at 2° Celsius below pre-industrial levels, which will require a massive decarbonization of global energy supplies.


At the forefront of these efforts is adopting renewable energy sources for electricity on residential, industrial, municipal, and national levels. There have already been incredible successes as infrastructural foundations built in the previous decade begin to bear fruit and production prices of renewable energy technologies fall. Renewable electricity grew 50% year-on-year from 2022 to 2023, with the contribution of renewables to global energy creation set to increase from 29% of the total energy mix to 42% by 2028. 


In this blog, we’ll examine some of the major growth sectors in renewable energy systems and the industries embracing the change.


Two people working on solar panels at a solar farm

The Growth in Renewables


As mentioned, there has been significant growth in the contribution of renewable energy over the past few years, with renewables set to overtake coal as the single biggest contributor to electricity production by 2025. This growth has come in many sectors, such as electricity production (thermal and wave energy), biofuel production (vegetable oils and bio-diesel), alternative fuels (hydrogen fuel cells), and renewable heat (heat pumps). However, 95% of the growth can be attributed to two renewable energy sources: solar and wind.


Solar


Of the 50% growth in renewables from 2022 to 2023, 75% came from solar energy. A major factor in this has been the simultaneous drop in the price of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules over the same period. The world may even reach overcapacity in producing solar modules, meaning prices will continue to fall. 


China alone commissioned as much solar energy in 2023 as the rest of the world did in 2022. With planning and installation procedures much simpler than other forms of renewable energy, solar is likely to spearhead the drive to triple global renewable production by 2030.


Wind


Wind energy has been a major renewable contributor for quite some time and still plays a significant role in the energy mix, even if its growth hasn’t been as impressive as solar. 


In many countries without fossil fuel resources but with significant wind and investment potential, wind is already a big contributor, such as Denmark (57% of electricity production), Ireland (36%), and Germany (27%). Offshore wind is also getting much larger, with the UK soon due to bring the world’s largest such project online, the Hornsea Project, which will produce enough energy to power one million homes.


Renewables in Action


Along with the global political impetus from agreements such as Paris 2015 and the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050, private industry has shown significant leadership. This includes some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Amazon committing to matching 100% of energy they use with renewables by 2025, and Google setting their sights on becoming completely carbon-free by 2030.


Of course, other major companies, like Tesla, are deeply ingrained in the shift to renewables and better energy usage. Tesla produces products such as the Powerwall for storage and combines them with solar production to allow the creation of personal and local microgrids. 

The move to renewables has also been embraced across the industrial and civil engineering spectrum, including in fields such as:


Data Centers: Meeting the world's ever-increasing demand for data storage, collection, and transmission, data centers are the foundation of the digital world. However, they also require incredible energy for running operations and keeping server stacks cool. Data centers lean heavily towards sourcing renewable energy for operational needs to keep costs down, meet ESG requirements, and future-proof against potential carbon taxes. This includes on-site or nearby production and the inclusion of renewables and battery sources of backup energy to ensure mains loss doesn't result in expensive downtime or equipment destruction.


Military: The US military is the single biggest consumer of petroleum in the world, which carries several operational risks. In response to meeting government directives and reducing its own effect on the global threat of global warming, the Army has introduced a climate strategy document, which includes introducing all-electric non-tactical vehicles and hybrid operational vehicles. To reduce the safety risks to service members involved in fuel convoys local energy production is also a significant consideration for the microgrids running bases, as well as powering the charging facilities needed for electric vehicles.


windmills on a mountain overlooking a body of water

Conclusion


In response to the world’s need to limit global warming and decarbonize energy production, renewable energies have seen a huge surge in investment in the past decade. The global shift to renewable energy sources has mainly been driven by solar and wind, though other alternatives, such as hydrogen fuel cells and bio-diesels, also contribute. Industries, such as data centers and defense, also contribute by building models based on complete or increased renewable energy inputs.


These major shifts in energy sourcing require an electrical infrastructure capable of supporting the enhanced monitoring and control systems used to track energy usage and needs. For decades, Enercon has been building and installing electrical systems to meet the diverse needs of customers, including renewable energy providers, data centers, and defense partners. 


To learn how we can help you with your next project, get in contact with us here.

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