TThe 2017 edition of the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report (GSR) reveals a global energy transition well under way, with record new additions of installed renewable energy capacity, rapidly falling costs, particularly for solar PV and wind power, and the decoupling of economic growth and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions for the third year running. Innovative and more sustainable ways of meeting our energy needs are accelerating the paradigm shift away from a world run on fossil fuels.

Despite these positive trends, the pace of the transition is not on track to achieve the goals established in the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. So how can we speed up the energy transition with renewables?

It is clear that policy is essential. Policy support for renewables in 2016, as in past years, focused mostly on power generation, whereas policies for the heating and cooling and transport sectors have remained virtually stagnant. This has to change. A systems approach is also needed across all sectors. There is a need to broaden the definition of a renewables-based energy system to one that moves beyond the traditional, narrow construct of renewable energy sources to one that looks at the role of supporting infrastructure, supply and demand balancing measures, efficiency measures and sector coupling, as well as a wide range of enabling technologies. The systems approach should become the norm in energy and infrastructure planning, financing and policy development.

We also need to intensify efforts to provide modern energy services to the billions of people who lack access. It is crucial that renewable energy and enabling technologies aimed at maximum system flexibility are prioritised, and that the most energy-efficient technologies are used. And rather than investing in fossil fuel or nuclear “baseload” power, efforts should focus on developing dispatchable renewable energy and mobilising flexibility options to manage higher shares of variable renewables.

In an attempt to put the findings of the GSR 2017 in the broader perspective of the global energy transition, the REN21 Secretariat has produced Advancing the Global Renewable Energy Transition: Highlights of the REN21 Renewables 2017 Global Status Report in Perspective. This is a complement to the meticulously documented data found in the GSR.

Similar to the field of renewables, the Renewables Global Status Report is the sum of many parts. At its heart is a multi-stakeholder network that collectively shares its insight and knowledge. More than 800 experts engage in the GSR process, giving their time, contributing data and providing comment. A big thanks to all of them, as without their invaluable contribution it would not be possible to produce the most comprehensive and accurate overview of the global status of renewable energy available today.

On behalf of the REN21 Secretariat, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the successful production of this year’s report. These include Janet L. Sawin together with lead authoring team members Kristen M. Seyboth and Freyr Sverrisson, the section authors, GSR Project Manager Hannah E. Murdock, Research Coordinator Rana Adib and the dedicated team at the REN21 Secretariat, under the leadership of its Executive Secretary Christine Lins.

Arthouros Zervos
Chair of REN21