12. International Renewable Energy

A. Introduction

Renewable energy technologies are expected to play an increasingly significant role in the years ahead in many developing countries as well as most industrialized countries. In developing countries with strong economic growth, new electricity generation capacity will be needed to meet growing energy demand and to supply electricity to rural areas not served by grid-connected utilities. The absence of well-established grids in rural areas of many developing countries makes standalone and žvillage gridž renewable energy applications likely prospects for meeting energy service demands. Photovoltaic systems, hybrid systems (renewable systems with conventional backup systems), "mini-hydro" systems, wind systems, small solar thermal systems, and biomass systems may all be able to compete with conventional energy technologies, given appropriate resources and infrastructure. Where renewable energy sources are competitive with conventional sources, funding from private, government, and international organizations may be available to support their development.

Many industrialized countries also will be seeking new energy technologies that will enable them to meet their energy needs with minimal damage to the environment or without compromising the reliability or security of their energy supplies. In countries with well-developed electricity grids, efforts are being made to bring cost-effective renewable energy applications on line. Solar thermal, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, solar thermal/gas hybrid, and wind systems are likely to be the best renewable energy prospects.

In October 1995, the U.S. Department of Energy sponsored a Hemispheric Energy Symposium to discuss and refine shared goals of North and South American nations on policy and regulatory principles that will stimulate private- sector investment in sustainable energy technologies and energy cooperation. Other stated goals of the conference were to identify projects that will demonstrate innovative financial and technological approaches to meeting the energy service needs of the hemisphere; to identify strategies to mobilize private capital to finance projects and to support the transition of the energy sectors toward a market basis; and to establish work plans and mechanisms to address common issues and problems in implementing sustainable energy policies and projects.

In addition to international projects supported by the U.S. Government, several joint-party collaborative efforts currently under way are enhancing the prospects for the use of renewable energy resources. For example, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched an initiative in 1992, called the World Solar Summit Process (WSSP), to advance the prospects for renewables in the developing world.(1) The World Bank is also promoting renewable energy. The Bank's Solar Initiative is an effort to work with member countries, the energy industry, the research community, and nongovernmental organizations to hasten the commercialization of solar and other renewable energy technologies and to expand their applications in developing countries. The World Bank recently increased its support for renewable energy projects around the world and currently is working to identify and prepare projects suitable for financing by the Global Environmental Facility.

Data on U.S. exports of solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic modules and cells in 1994 are presented in Tables 39, 40, and 41. Table 39 REA '96 shows existing capacity and planned additions for geothermal electricity around the world.

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