Renewable Energy came up as one of the alternative opportunities for large-scale power generation plants. As such it faces similar barriers as decentralized cogeneration plants of independent producers: grid connection, priority position in the merit order, limited economies of scale, hostile attitude by incumbent power companies.
In the 1990s I appraised a few renewable energy projects in Africa for the Belgian development aid agency, e.g. small hydro power in Natitingou, Benin and wind power turbines on several sites in Kenia.
In 1996 I started the design of retrofitting an old landhouse into a low-energy, solar (thermal and electricity) house [see "Energy Efficiency & Sustainable Housing"]. Due to lawsuits by the Flemish administration the project was delayed during five years. Anyhow the experiment delivers first-hand experience of the integration of efficiency and renewable energy in a housing project. The house is in use since 2004 and meets exceptional comfort standards. The PV production covers 2/3rd of the electricity consumption. Solar hot water is supplied during 8 months of the year. More than half of the water consumption is rainwater. The efficiency performance endowment of the house meet the standards that the 2010 EU Directive on Buildings mandates for 2020. The project was a valuable demo project for leapfrogging in efficiency.
Since 2002 I follow the policies of supporting renewable energy (in particular renewable electricity) in the EU with a focus on the Flemish system of tradable certificates. Based on observed data the Flemish system is analysed and its main flaws are revealed. Due to a shortage in careful qualification of the various types of renewable energy technologies and sources, the tradable certificates system allows incumbent power companies to cash significant monopoly profits. This turns money paid by end-users away from the development of new disruptive technologies. The system falls short in inducing innovations in the renewable energy sector.