Renewables accounted for approximately 20 per cent of global final energy consumption, with the most prominent growth happening in the power sector and with global capacity rising more than 8 per cent in 2013. Fossil fuels, however, continue to dominate global primary energy consumption, with coal remaining the major contributor to the world’s energy pool. Almost 1.3 billion people in the world, mainly in rural areas, live without access to electricity and 2.7 billion without modern reliable energy services (UNDP, 2013; Alliance for Rural Electrification, 2014; IEA, 2014a). Global energy consumption is projected to rise by 56 per cent by 2040, with fossil fuels dominating the energy grid (US EIA, 2013).
Despite the increasing adoption of renewable energy sources in many parts of the world, widespread adoption is constrained by a multitude of policy, regulatory, technological, social and financial barriers. While fossil fuel subsidies are still applicable in many countries, the financial incentives for renewables will be outweighed.
Market failures coupled with unfavourable financial, institutional and regulatory environments demand governmental intervention to establish renewable energy sources. Building human and institutional capacity, setting up research and development infrastructure, creating an enabling environment for investment and providing information present a challenge for many countries.
A lack of clear supporting policies also stands as a large barrier among the risks that can undermine renewable project feasibility, even in the conditions of plentiful resources and favourable technology development. This array of challenges to the adoption of renewables requires a systematic approach in research to deepen the understanding of the challenges that exist for the deployment and diffusion of renewables in different countries. Surely the exact difficulties that each country faces depends upon demographic social and economic dynamics as well as the flows of information and resources.
Devising effective responses to a problem that is global and multi-generational in scale presents a challenge that is, especially for developing countries, greatly complicated by the simultaneous need to expand access to essential energy services and to advance multiple objectives, including economic and social development goal as well as environmental ones.