Renewable energy support policies and targets are now present in nearly all countries worldwide.1 As the costs for renewable technologies fall, these measures continue to evolve and adapt, and in some places they are expanding to ease the integration of higher shares of variable renewable energy (VRE)i into electric grids. The power sector again received most of the renewable energy-focused policy attention in 2018. Similarly, targets for renewable energy continued to be more ambitious in the power sector than in the heating, cooling and transport sectors, with some countries – and many more sub-national governments – aiming for 100% renewable electricity.

Renewable energy policies and targets remain far from the ambition level required to reach international climate goals.

Outside the power sector, policies for renewables have advanced at a slower pace, and targets for renewable heating, cooling and transport are not only far less numerous, but also often far less ambitious. This trend has continued despite the much greater contribution of the heating, cooling and transport sectors to total final energy consumption (TFEC). ( See Global Overview chapter.)

Overall, renewable energy policy frameworks continue to vary greatly in scope and comprehensiveness, and most remain far from the ambition level required to reach international climate goals.2 ( See Figure 12 and Reference Tables R3-R13.)


Still, the diverse benefits of renewable energy are driving policy action in countries around the worldii.3 Policies have played a significant role in the growth of renewable energy and have helped advance technologies and reduce costs. Well-designed support mechanisms can spur deployment in nascent renewable energy markets; promote renewable energy in sectors with limited deployment, such as heating, cooling and transport; and guide the integration of technologies across different sectors of the economy. Policies also play an important role in supporting technology development that can lead to new advances, thereby increasing efficiency, driving down system costs and transitioning new technologies or applications to market.

Figure 12
Source: See endnote 2 for this chapter.

Targets, regulations, public financing and fiscal incentives supporting renewable energy development and deployment are found at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels. At each level, policy makers have the opportunity to design an effective mix of support policies tailored to their respective jurisdictions.

Although regional or national policies regularly receive the most widespread attention, provinces, states and cities are often the first movers in establishing innovative and ambitious mechanisms for renewable energy deployment. Many cities have direct control of public transport networks, building codes and, in some cases, electric utilities, allowing them to use their regulatory and purchasing authority – as well as their position as large energy users – to procure and deploy renewable technologies.4 ( See Feature chapter.) In many developing countries, the renewable energy push comes from international agreements, which can have an impact on policy implementation at all levels of government.

Evolving energy markets and geopolitical uncertainty have moved energy security and energy infrastructure resilience to the forefront of many national energy strategies. Security of supply is a significant concern in energy markets worldwide, from the European Union (EU) and the United States to Egypt and India.5 Debates in this realm are often complex and can be contentious, as they may involve the introduction of new energy production sources, the emergence of decentralised renewable technologies and a departure from traditional producer-consumer dynamics.

As countries develop national energy strategies to transform their energy sectors, they continue to focus on renewable power technologies. System integration is important to ensure the long-term viability of power systems that comprise a growing range of technologies and higher shares of VRE. Policy makers increasingly are exploring opportunities to ensure that power systems have the flexibility to manage disruptions as well as fluctuations in supply. Promoting integration has included dynamic policy and market measures that provide varying levels of support based on factors such as the time or place of generation.6 ( See Integration section in this chapter, and Systems Integration chapter.)

The following sections provide an overview of trends in renewable energy policy development worldwide in 2018iii.

iDefined more broadly, VRE also can include some forms of ocean power and hydropower. This chapter focuses primarily on solar PV and wind power, as these represent the fastest-growing VRE markets that are having the greatest impacts on energy systems. See Glossary for an extended definition of VRE.i

iiMultiple benefits of renewables include improved public health through reduced pollution, increased reliability and resilience, and job creation and other economic benefits.ii

iiiThe chapter highlights key trends and developments in 2018 and is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all policies enacted to date. In addition, the chapter does not assess or analyse the effectiveness of specific policy mechanisms. Further details on newly adopted policies and policy revisions are included in the Reference Tables and endnotes associated with this chapter. Policies for energy access are covered in the Distributed Renewables chapter.iii