Global clean power growth hits milestone in 2019

Apr 20, 2020 | Montel

(Montel) Renewable energy generation increased last year for the first time by more than a rise in global energy demand, though growth remained too slow to hit climate targets, an industry group said on Monday.

Last year saw renewables account for three quarters of new generation capacity, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) said in a webinar announcing the organisation’s first global outlook report. 

A third of the world’s installed generation capacity was now renewable and market pressures would continue to drive this trend, said Irena director general Francesco La Camera.

“In a few years it will make more sense to build a new renewable energy installation than operate an existing fossil fuel plant.”

Nevertheless, growing energy demand was widening the gap in investment relative to what was needed to prevent dangerous levels of climate change, he added.

Last year the world generated 34bn tonnes of energy-related carbon emissions and remained on a trajectory to emit 33bn tonnes by 2050, by Irena estimates. 

By contrast, the world needed to be on an investment trajectory that would limit energy-related emissions to 9.5bn tonnes by mid-century to have a chance of limiting global warming to below 2C.

Investment must double
Some areas of the economy, such as the electrification of transport, were showing “early signs of disruptive acceleration”. 

Increases in energy demand have absorbed the bulk of the growth in clean power generation. 

This has limited renewables to around 10% of final energy supply for much of the last decade. 

On the present trajectory of planned global investments, renewables would only rise to meet a quarter of final energy supply by mid-century, by Irena estimates.  

To put the world on track to limit global warming to 2C, the share of renewables in final energy use would need to increase six-fold relative to today and by two-and-a-half times relative to the present trajectory of investment, it added.

The world is presently on track to invest USD 95 trillion in energy by the middle of the century, including 13 trillion in renewables and another 13 trillion in electrification infrastructure. 

Investments in renewables would need to double to bring energy emissions down by the 70% implied by a 2C climate. They would need to almost triple to achieve a full decarbonisation by mid-century, Irena said.

The report can be found here.

Reporting by:
Nathan Witkop
15:44, Monday, 20 April 2020