The speed of global renewable energy adoption needs to increase by at least a factor of six if the world is to meet the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement, but which would also result in the growth of the global economy and global welfare, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050, was launched at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue being held on Tuesday and Wednesday at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. According to the report, cumulative energy system investment would need to be increased by 30% through to 2050 in favor of supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency — from around $93 trillion under current and planned policies, up to $120 trillion. This investment figure also requires $18 trillion be directed towards power grids and energy flexibility — double that of current and planned policies.
Investing so heavily in renewable energy and energy efficiency can also result in the creation of over 11 million additional energy-sector jobs, which would completely offset the job losses stemming from the downturn in the fossil fuel industry. Of course, there is not necessarily a direct one-to-one translation from the fossil fuel industry to a renewable energy job, but if governments around the world and companies make it a priority, job transition and re-education can mitigate some of the fossil fuel job losses.
The IRENA report also highlighted the value of “immediate” action to transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and energy efficiency, noting that more immediate action will reduce the scale and value of stranded energy-related assets in the future, which would end up saving taxpayers and companies billions. Specifically, the current value of stranded assets under IRENA’s current roadmap is set at $11 trillion by 2050, but that could double if immediate action is not taken.
“Renewable energy and energy efficiency together form the cornerstone of the world’s solution to energy-related CO2 emissions, and can provide over 90% of the energy-related CO2 emission reductions required to keep global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “If we are to decarbonise global energy fast enough to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, renewables must account for at least two-thirds of total energy by 2050.
“Transformation will not only support climate objectives, it will support positive social and economic outcomes all over the world, lifting millions 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. That is an opportunity we must rally behind by adopting strong policies, mobilizing capital and driving innovation across the energy system.”
The issue is most obviously highlighted by the trends current policies have on the planet. Current government plans fall short of the emissions reductions necessary, and at today’s trajectory, we would see the planet exhaust its energy-related “carbon budget” allowed under a 2oC scenario in only 20 years, despite expected and continued strong renewable energy growth.
As a result, significant improvements are vitally necessary in terms of energy intensity, and the share of renewable energy must increase by two-thirds.
It is important to see that transitioning to renewable electricity is not just to satisfy the desires of environmentalists and renewable energy companies. Over the past several years we have seen numerous examples proving that the low-carbon transition makes economic sense. Renewable energy and energy efficiency measures result not just in cleaner energy generation, but also reduced air pollution, better health, and lower environmental damage — all of which far outweigh the costs of transitioning.