Energy produced from renewable sources such as hydro, wind, and solar will exceed that from natural gas and more than double the outupt from nuclear by 2016, according to a recent International Energy Agency report, making it the second most important global electricity source, after coal.
According to projections, renewable power will increase by a whopping 40% over the next five years, despite what the report calls a "difficult economic context." Renewables are currently the fastest-growing electricity source, and will make up almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, according to the IEA, up from an estimated 20% in 2011. Non-hydro sources (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) are expected to double by 2018, reaching 8%, according to the Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (link opens in PDF).
"As their costs continue to fall, renewable power sources are increasingly standing on their own merits versus new fossil-fuel generation," said Agency Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven during a presentation. "This is good news for a global energy system that needs to become cleaner and more diversified, but it should not be an excuse for government complacency, especially among OECD countries."
In 2012, global renewable energy generation exceeded China's overall electricity consumption. Van der Hoeven pointed to increased investment in emerging markets and cost-competitiveness as the two main drivers behind renewables' ramp up.