Discussion Paper

The Economic and Policy Settingof Renewable Energy:Where Do Things Stand?

Dec 31, 2003 | Joel Darmstadter

Abstract

This paper looks at the status and prospects of renewables—with particular emphasis on windpower—in the electric power sector. Although renewables account for a steadily rising share of electricity generation in various countries, their role remains small in absolute terms. In part, this is because of technological progress of and successful competition from fossil-fueled generation—notably, combined cycle gas turbines. While diminishing, subsidies continue to be indispensable to the use of renewables in most places. Viability of renewables-based electricity is undermined by the cost of externalities for which fossil energy combustion is only partially charged. A number of countries (and states in the U.S.) have launched obligatory requirements for renewables-based electricity in the years ahead. This so-called “renewable portfolio standard,” while technology-forcing, offers an opportunity for an economically efficient way of promoting greater market penetration of renewables.