Renewable energy-based electric generating capacity is rapidly growing and is expected to deliver up to 30 per cent of the world's power demand by 2023. Solar energy will significantly contribute to this growth and play a major role in the energy mix of the future. To help accelerate this development, the United Nations has prepared specifications to classify and report solar energy resources (UNFC solar specifications). The specifications are founded in the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC), a global system developed at UNECE that is used to classify energy and mineral resources for internal and public reporting.
Increasing production and use of clean energy resources is key to reducing CO2 emissions and combating global warming. This is reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), which targets clean and affordable electricity for all by 2030.
As global development and urbanization proceed, electrification of the world's energy system is expected to intensify. The resulting growth in electricity demand must be met by clean electricity if the world is to meet its development goals. By 2050, about 70 per cent of the world's population - about 7 billion people, equivalent to the entire world population of today - will be living in cities. The unprecedented demand for clean energy and more particularly clean electricity is raising serious concerns on the sustainability of the current energy system.
To date, 169 countries have now set targets for renewable energy. "These renewable energy targets need a solid evidence base. Luckily, renewable energy resources, including solar, can now be assessed and compared with competing energy sources in a standardized way," said Jeremy Webb, Chair of the Solar Energy Sub-group of the UNECE Expert Group on Resource Management (EGRM). "Perhaps most importantly, the UNFC solar specifications provide a template for monitoring the progress of a solar project based on the steps that projects need to go through before solar energy resources can be used."
The level of solar development envisaged also requires large inflows of finance, and the UNFC solar specifications will help channel investment into the industry.
"The UNFC solar specifications are designed to support classification of solar energy resources in a way that reflects the development phases of solar energy projects and their uncertainties, while at the same time allowing comparison with other energy resources," said Frank Denelle, Chair of the EGRM Renewable Energy Working Group. "Such a standardized, project-related approach is particularly important for all countries and companies striving to increase their solar energy production through the most effective use of their investments".
The draft UNFC solar specifications were developed based on inputs from a broad stakeholder group. The draft standard is open for public comment until 30 August 2019. The comments received will be used to prepare the final version, to be presented to the UNECE Committee on Sustainable Energy for endorsement during its annual meeting, on 25-27 September 2019.
"With the development of these solar specifications, UNFC has taken a step further to becoming the global norm for classification throughout the world's energy system," said Scott Foster, Director of the Sustainable Energy Division at UNECE. "We encourage all countries to deploy UNFC to assess and optimize their sustainable energy portfolios, thereby contributing to investment in and development of clean energy."
For more information on UNFC and its application to solar energy visit: https://www.unece.org/energy/se/reserves.html