Today REN21 published its annual overview of the state of renewable energy. The Renewables 2016 Global Status Report reveals that renewables are now firmly established as competitive, mainstream sources of energy in many countries around the world.
According to the report, global consumption of energy in transport has increased by an average of 2% annually since 2000 and accounts for about 28% of overall energy consumption. Most of the total energy demand (around 60%) is for passenger transport, a majority of which is for passenger cars. Road transport also accounts for a majority (around 67%) of freight transport, with shipping (23%) and rail (4%) accounting for smaller shares. The report highlights how liquid biofuels have become the most popular renewable energy source in the transport sector, accounting for an estimated 4% of global fuel for road transport in 2015. This seems to be a result of improved infrastructure and accessibility, particularly in Europe.
Moreover, there are now 66 countries with renewable energy transport obligations. Out of the whole, only 11 countries are new to the list, this meaning that they added policies between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, nearly all policies adopted in the renewable transport sector were in support of promoting the production and use of biofuels. As of the end of 2015, biofuel blend mandates were in place in 34 countries, with 32 national-level mandates and 27 state/provincial mandates. Furthermore, new policy development now seems to focus on promoting second-generation, advanced biofuels rather than first-generation biofuels, even if most policies adopted to date focus on the latter.
Figure 1. Number of renewable energy policies and of countrires with renewable energy policies, by type, 2012-2015
In 2015, the country produced the most biodiesel was the United States, followed by Brazil and then Germany. Similarly, the country that produced the most fuel ethanol was the United States, followed by Brazil and then China, all of which reached record production levels. In total, ethanol production increased by 4% globally, but global production of biodiesel fell slightly due to constrained production in some Asian markets. It is thought that the blend mandates (mentioned above) sheltered demand for biofuels from falling fossil fuel prices.
Additionally, in 2015, the liquid biofuel industry employed 1,678 thousand people worldwide. Brazil had the largest amount of people employed in this sector, with 821 thousand jobs; followed by the United States, with 277 thousand jobs; then China with 71 thousand jobs.
Figure 2. Annual investment/ net capacity additions / biofuel production in 2015
The report criticizes that current policy support for renewable energy in the transport sector is not enough to drive the transition away from fossil fuels, at least compared to the efforts that are currently being made in other sectors towards achieving this goal. It states the transport sector should attempt to push forward more policies that focus on the integration of renewable energy and electric vehicles, as well as the use of renewables in aviation, rail or shipping.
Figure 3. Countries with renewable energy transport obligations, 2010-2015
REN21’s Renewables 2016 Global Status Report presents developments and trends through the end of 2015, as well as observed trends from early 2016 where available. This means that accelerated action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions stemming from the Paris Climate Agreement in December is not reflected in the results.
While trends are generally positive, the report highlights several challenges that remain to be addressed if governments are to fulfill their commitments to achieve a global transition away from fossil fuels.
These include: achieving effective integration of high shares of renewables into the grid; addressing policy and political instability, regulatory barriers, and fiscal constraints. Further, there is far less policy focus on transport and, particularly, heating and cooling, so these sectors are progressing much more slowly.