IRENA: Doubling Renewable Energy Share Could Save Trillions

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Doubling the global share of renewable energy by 2030 could save up to $4.2 trillion annually, 15 times more than the costs.

IRENA-15This is the primary conclusion from a new report published this week by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report, REmap: Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future, was published Thursday at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, and recommends several options to boost the global share of renewable energy from its current 18% to as much as 36% by 2030.

“Achieving a doubling is not only feasible, it is cheaper than not doing so,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “REmap shows this is not only the most economic pathway, but also the most socially and environmentally conscious. It would create more jobs, save millions of lives from reduced air pollution and set us on a pathway to limit global temperature rise to two degrees as agreed in Paris.”

The new report is the second edition of IRENA’s global roadmap, and has broadened its analysis to include 40 countries, which themselves account for 80% of global energy use. The report notes that “great strides have been made” to increase the global share of renewable energy in the energy mix, which is on track to generate roughly 30% of the world’s electricity by 2030, up from generating 23% today. However, if a doubling of renewable energy is achieved, this share would grow to more than 50% in 2030.


“The energy transition is well underway in the power sector, but to reach global climate and development targets, the next phase will require more focus on transport, heating and cooling,” said Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre Dolf Gielen. “If a doubling is achieved, these sectors would account for roughly half of renewable energy use in 2030 and so must scale-up dramatically to meet that target.”

Existing national plans only have the global renewable energy share reaching 21% by 2030, so to achieve a doubling of this would require an average annual investment of $770 billion up to 2030 and a six-fold increase of annual renewable energy deployment. Key benefits of doubling renewables:

  • It would limit average global temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels (when coupled with energy efficiency)
  • It would avoid up to 12 gigatonnes of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2030 – five times higher than what countries have pledged to reduce through renewable energy in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs)
  • It would result in 24.4 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2030, compared to 9.2 million in 2014
  • It would reduce air pollution enough to save up to 4 million lives per year in 2030
  • It would boost the global GDP by up to USD 1.3 trillion

“The age of renewable energy is here, but without concerted efforts, its potential will not be reached fast enough to meet international climate and development targets,” said Mr. Amin. “For decision makers in the public and private sectors alike, this roadmap sends an alert – both on the opportunities at hand and on the costs of not taking them.”

The full report can be accessed here.

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Joshua S Hill

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