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Renewable energy is growing in the UNECE region, but uptake is lagging far behind targets and ambitions

Published: 13 April 2018

In 2014, the UNECE region accounted for 42% of global GDP, 40% of the world’s total primary energy supply and 34% of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion. It is the only region which has substantially increased the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix in the last years. Installed capacity from renewable energy increased to 869 GW in 2016 in the UNECE countries. This growth accounted for almost half of the 1,971 GW of worldwide installed renewable electricity capacity.

Hydropower is the most established renewable energy technology for power generation, making up 412 GW (388 GW from large hydropower plants) of total renewable electricity capacity. Although the wind and photovoltaic markets are experiencing the fastest growth of all renewable electricity markets in the UNECE region (with a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% and 10.3%, respectively, between 2011 and 2014) they are only the second and third largest markets overall (with installed capacities of 254 GW and 140 GW, respectively).

Providing affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy remains a key challenge for the whole world, and the UNECE region is no exception. While the countries of the Caucasus, Central Asia, Europe and North America are united in their goal of accelerating the development and implementation of renewable energy projects, the status and progress of market development is not homogenous across the region.

The German Energy Agency (dena) and UNECE have collaborated in issuing this new report, which features good practices for and experiences of renewable energy policymaking. All countries can benefit from the experience of others in their quest to “do renewable energy right”.

At the policy level, this report takes a closer look at different policy options for promoting renewable energy adopted by UNECE member countries, and at their current state of implementation and applicability:   43 countries have a premium plan or feed-in-remuneration in place, 44 countries provide subsidies or tax and investment incentives, 49 countries have renewable energy promotion schemes in the electricity sector, and 41 have schemes in the heat sector. This shows that many promotion schemes are in place across the region, but ultimately the uptake of renewable energy depends much more on market access and the effective implementation of these schemes.

The report considered the different outcomes of UNECE Renewable Energy Hard Talks, multi-stakeholders policy dialogues recently held in Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, to point out that, given major variance in the structures and stages of renewable energy deployment in national energy systems, there is no single silver bullet for substantially increasing the uptake of renewable energy.  Even if renewable energy policies are in place, they do not necessarily boost renewable energy investment.  On the contrary, renewable energy investments have declined in recent years in many countries of the region as noted in the UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report 2017 produced jointly with the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

Despite the enormous untapped potential to be exploited to increase renewable energy capacity, most investments in the UNECE region occurred in Western Europe and North America. Countries in South-East and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus observed a notable decline of investments in renewable energy, from USD 700 million in 2014 to USD 400 million in 2015, down from 0.5% to 0.2% of global renewable investments.

This new study is intended to encourage countries to apply successful measures on a national and regional level to help develop the renewable energy market further, leading policy makers to informed decisions and effective action that will achieve sustainable energy systems in the future through a dialogue between the public and private sector, and among major stakeholders.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) supported the preparation of this report.


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