- IRENA’s WETO 2023 volume I says the world needs to triple its renewable energy capacity by 2030 to stay on 1.5°C climate pathway
- Solar PV and wind will dominate this extensive roll out, which is mostly going to be in G20 nations
- Renewable energy investment needs to increase to 1.3 trillion/year by 2030 and 1.38 trillion/year by 2050
- Need to address barriers of lack of physical infrastructure, absence of enabling policies and regulations and misalignments in skills and institutional capacity
- Significantly increasing the direct use of renewable energy in end-use sectors is also important to achieve the target
The way forward for the world to ‘immediately course correct’ the 1.5°C climate pathway is to raise its renewable energy targets to a more ‘ambitious’ level, an average of 1 TW annually by 2030, while also significantly increasing the direct use of renewables in end-use sectors, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). However, this number is rather low when looking at SolarPower Europe’s recent Global Market Outlook for Solar Power.
In the 1st volume of IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook (WETO) 2023 or WETO 2023: 1.5°C Pathway, it plainly states that the current pledges and plans fall well short of the 1.5°C pathway. Most climate pledges are not yet translated into detailed national strategies and plans, and do not have sufficient funding needed. It warns that there are significant gaps between the current deployment of energy transition technologies and the Paris agreement target. “Our only option is to follow the most promising, science-based pathway one that puts renewable energy at the centre of the solution, while leading countries to energy security, reduced energy costs, and forward-looking industrial development,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera.
While the growth of renewables has been remarkable as some 300 GW were added globally in 2022, accounting for 83% of new capacity, both their volume and share needs to go up substantially to a technically feasible and economically viable level. “IRENA’s World Energy Transition Outlook shows that tripling renewable power capacity until 2030 and beyond will get us back on track (to the 1.5°C climate pathway),” added Camera.
According to IRENA, the 1 TW annual capacity by 2030 will be more than 3x the installed capacity in 2022, and close to 1.1 TW by 2050 (see Global Renewable Power Grew By 295 GW In 2022). Solar PV and wind will dominate this rollout contributing 46% and 70% of total electricity generation by the target years, respectively.
For solar PV, the report recommends targeting 551 GW annually by 2030 and 615 GW annually by 2050, while for wind the target should be 329 GW and 335 GW, respectively. IRENA’s solar estimates seem very low compared to SolarPower Europe’s recently published 5-year Global Market Outlook, which expects 617 GW of solar to be installed already in 2027 in the Medium Scenario and nearly 800 GW in the High Scenario (see Global Market Outlook 20023-2027). In their forward the authors write, “Having achieved over 1 TW of total solar capacity in 2022, we now see the potential for an annual TW-scale market by 2030.” In other words, SolarPower Europe foresees a TW-market for solar alone at the same time IRENA estimates all renewables will be needed to reach that level.
Most of the deployment of renewable energies will be in G20 nations, accounting for more than 80% capacity installed globally by 2030.
“G20 countries’ renewable capacity needs to scale up by almost four times to reach 9,400 GW by 2030, and by ten times to reach nearly 24,900 GW by 2050, from the 2020 level, in order to align with a 1.5°C pathway,” state the analysts.
According to the report, existing variable renewable energy (VRE) targets included in the Planned Energy Scenario would increase the total VRE capacity to 5,071 GW by 2030, representing slightly more than half of the capacity (8,990 GW) needed to achieve the 1.5°C target.
However, under IRENA’s 1.5°C Scenario, installed solar PV capacity would exceed 5,400 GW by 2030 and 18,200 GW by 2050. Wind installations would surpass 3,500 GW by 2030 and reach almost 10,300 GW by 2050.
It also bats for deeper end-use electrification of transport and heat, to direct renewable energy use, energy efficiency and infrastructure additions.
Renewables’ growth will be driven by technology cost reductions, their modularity, advancement of energy storage technology and supportive government policies.
However, to get there the world needs to address the barriers of lack of physical infrastructure, absence of enabling policies and regulations and misalignments in skills and institutional capacity.
Investment in renewable energy generation also needs to go up from $486 billion/year in recent years to 1.3 trillion/year by 2030 and 1.38 trillion/year by 2050.
IRENA believes the change to renewables across the spectrum has to be deeper and for good. “Pursuing fuel and sectoral mitigation measures is necessary, but is insufficient to transition to an energy system fit for the dominance of renewables. From energy production and transportation to processing coal, oil and gas, the global infrastructure dedicated to energy will need to change. This will have impacts on power generation, industrial production and manufacturing, as well as on rail, pipelines, shipyards and other means of supplying fossil fuels,” reads the report.