Many countries worldwide have put much effort in promoting renewable energy. They have increased its proportion in energy every year by investing globally. In 2012, global subsidies for renewable energy reached $101 billion, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Total global investment in renewable power and fuels (including small hydro-electric projects) was $244 billion in 2012, more than doubled the amount since 2006 ($100 billion). Several factors explain this growing trend in renewable energy investment: the increasing price of fossil fuel, such as crude oil, the growing concerns over energy security, and an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The terrible Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 intensified the debate over renewable energy, raising the voices of renewable-energy support and thus escalating the trend. In fact, countries such as Germany and Italy decided to either close all existing nuclear reactors or significantly reduce the number of nuclear power plants originally planned. Reducing or ending reliance on nuclear power ultimately led them to diversify their energy mix, and one strategy is to increase the use of renewable energy.
In this favorable trend toward renewable energy, however, there are still disputes over whether governments should engage in promoting and incentivizing its use. Since energy policies not only are accompanied with the use of taxpayers’ money, but also play a significant role in showing the direction of future energy plan that is also associated with creating new market, conducting constant cost-benefit analysis for feasibility and efficiency check and tracking relevant technological developments are inevitable. In this paper, hence, I will re-examine the promises of renewable energy by analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of heavily debated renewable energy: hydro, wind and solar power as well as technological limitations related to renewable energy. With this approach, the paper will assess whether the further policy support for renewable energy is necessary or not at this point.
What is Renewable Energy? Why Promote It?
The IEA defines renewable energy as energy derived from natural processes that are replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed. Sunlight, wind, hydro, geothermal, and some forms of biomass are sources of renewable energy. Renewable energy is distinguished from fossil fuel such as coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear energy. The proportion of renewable energy in the mix varies by region and nations depending on their technological advances and relevant energy policies. The IEA reported that renewables accounted for 19.5% of global electricity generation in 2009. Regionally, according to Energy Challenges and Policy Report by the European Commission, 10% of renewable sources covered the total energy needs of the EU countries on average in 2011. Twelve percent of electricity generation came from renewable energy in the...