Upholding the facts: renewable energy technologies, mature and in widespread use

Upholding the facts: renewable energy technologies, mature and in widespread use

October 24th , 2013


MEXICO CITY. Little by little, renewable energy technologies (e.g. PV panels, solar concentrators, windmills, heat pumps, batteries to store electric power, etc.) have become “mainstream” technologies among businesses, governments, consumers and utilities. Although the growth of renewable energy worldwide began in the 1990’s and accelerated in the 2000’s[1], many of these technologies were already proved mature at commercial scale years before.

Nonetheless, advocates of conventional technologies have sought to cast doubt about the maturity of these technologies. In some contexts, it is claimed that these technologies have not been used for long enough to discard technological risks. In others, claims also refer to renewables as technologies which have not seen widespread used. Consequently, there’s still the idea that renewable energy technologies are too immature and not yet commercially available for making them qualified for large-scale investments.

Evidently, this is not true. At first, renewable energy technologies have operated at commercial level since many decades already. For instance, the world’s first 1 MW grid-connected solar photovoltaic park was built in 1982[2]; the first world wind farm in 1980[3]; the first operational concentrated solar power plant in 1968[4]; and, the first commercial geothermal power plant back in 1913[5]. On the other hand, renewables have also been widespread used. Nowadays, 13 countries (namely China, United States, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Italy, India, France, Japan, United Kingdom, Brazil and Sweden) account for over 80% of global non-hydro renewable power capacity[6]. In fact, by 2012, renewable power capacity (excluding hydro) has exceeded 990 GW, accounting for more than 5% of global electricity supply[6].

More and more countries are investing in renewables proving that such technologies are not only mature enough and qualified for large-scale investments but profitable; during the 2007-2011 period, global revenues derived from solar PV, wind power and biofuels investments cumulated $248, $277 and $244 bn respectively[7]. For example, other than those previously mentioned, many additional countries are joining the renewable energy champion’s league. For instance, in 2012, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey, Japan, Argentina, South Korea and Australia established themselves among the top 10 countries in clean energy investment growth[8].

Renewable energy technologies are not sufficiently deployed compared to conventional energy. However, the idea that renewable energy remains technologically immature is a complete myth. As a matter of fact, renewables are technologically mature enough to be established as dominating technologies and capable of replacing fossil fuel and nuclear energy worldwide[9].


Tabaré A. Currás

Advisor on Energy Economics

WWF-Global Climate and Energy Initiative

Mexico City – MEX



[1]          REN21, “Renewables Global Futures Report,” Paris, 2013.

[2]          J. C. Arnett, L. A. Schaffer, J. P. Rumberg, and R. E. L. Tolbert, “Design, installation and performance of the ARCO Solar one-megawatt power plant,” presented at the Fifth International Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference, Athens, Greece, 1983, pp. 314–320.

[3]          Wind Energy Center, University of Massachusetts, “Wind Energy Center Alumni and the Early Wind Industry,” 2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.umass.edu/windenergy/about.history.alumni.php. [Accessed: 15-Oct-2013].

[4]          K. Butti and J. Perlin, A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology. Cheshire Books, 1980.

[5]          J. W. Lund, “100 years of geothermal power production,” Geo-Heat Center, Oregon Institute of Technology, GHC Bulletin, Sep. 2004.

[6]          REN21, “Renewables 2013- Global Status Report,” Paris, 2013.

[7]          R. Perick, C. Wilder, and T. Winnie, “Clean Energy Trends 2013,” Clean Edge, Mar. 2013.

[8]          The Pew Charitable Trust, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?,” Washington DC, 2012.

[9]          WWF Intl., “The Energy Report 100% Renewable Energy by 2050,” Gland, 9782940443260, 2011.


Netzahualcóyotl Arroyo

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