Renewable energy and energy efficiency are the cornerstone of the world’s solution to energy-related carbon emissions, and can provide over 90% of the energy-related carbon emission reductions required to keep global temperature rise to 2 ºC above preindustrial levels, says International Renewable Energy Agency’s (Irena) director-general Adnan Z Amin.
“If we are to decarbonise global energy fast enough to avoid the most sever impacts of climate change, renewables must account for at least two-thirds of total energy by 2050.”
He says transformation will not only support climate objectives, but it will also support positive socioeconomic outcomes globally, lifting millions of people out of energy poverty, increasing energy independence and stimulating sustainable job growth.
“An opportunity exists to ramp up investment in low carbon technologies, and shift the global development paradigm from one of scarcity, inequality and competition to one of shared prosperity – in our lifetimes.”
Amin says the world must work together in adopting strong policies, mobilising capital and driving innovation across the energy system.
Increasing the speed of global renewable-energy adoption by at least a factor of six – critical to meeting energy-related emissions reduction goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement – can limit global temperature rise to the goal of 2 ºC above preindustrial levels, according to the latest edition of the Irena long-term renewable-energy outlook.
At the same time, the report finds that, by 2050, the global economy would grow by 1% and global welfare, including benefits not captured by gross domestic product, such as health benefits from reduced air pollution and reduced climate impacts, among others, would improve by 15%, compared with the current trajectory.
‘Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050’, launched in April at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue in Germany, also finds that increasing cumulative energy system investment by 30% to 2050 in favour of renewable energy and energy efficiency, can create over 11-million additional energy sector jobs, completely offsetting job losses in the fossil fuel industry.
The report notes that immediate action will also reduce the scale and value of stranded energy-related assets in the future. The roadmap currently anticipates up to $11-trillion of stranded energy assets by 2050 – a value that could double if action is further delayed.
Current government plans fall short of emission reduction needs. At the current trajectory, the world would exhaust its energy-related “carbon budget” of 2 ºC in under 20 years, despite continued strong growth in renewable capacity additions. The report indicates that, by the end of 2017, global renewable generation capacity increased by 167 GW and reached 2 179 GW globally – yearly growth of 8.3%.
However, without an increase in renewables deployment, fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal would continue to dominate the global energy mix by 2050. The roadmap analysis outlines an energy system in which renewables account for up to two-thirds of total final energy consumption, and 85% of power generation by 2050 – up from 18% and 25% respectively today.
To achieve this, at least a six-fold acceleration of renewable energy is needed, both through increased electrification of transport and heat, and more direct use of renewables.
Electrification and renewable power are key drivers outlined in the report, with solar and wind capacity leading the energy transformation.