IRENA: Doubling Renewables By 2030 Would Save Trillions Of Dollars


Doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 is not only feasible, but also cheaper than not doing so, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report finds the effort would save up to $4.2 trillion annually by 2030 – 15 times more than the costs – thanks to avoided expenditures on air pollution and climate change.

IRENA says the report, titled “REmap: Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future,” recommends options to boost the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix from just over 18% today, to as much as 36% by 2030.

“REmap shows this is not only the most economic pathway, but also the most socially and environmentally conscious,” remarks IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “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.”

This second edition of IRENA’s global roadmap broadens its analysis to cover 40 countries, representing 80% of global energy use. The report says that under existing national plans, the global renewables share would only reach 21% by 2030. To achieve a doubling, the annual rate of renewable energy deployment would need to increase six-fold and would require an average annual investment of $770 billion up to 2030. The report says achieving this would increase the cost of the global energy system by roughly $290 billion per year in 2030, but the savings achieved through this doubling would be up to 15 times higher than that costs.

“The energy transition is well under way in the power sector, but to reach global climate and development targets, the next phase will require more focus on transport, heating and cooling,” notes Dolf Gielen, director of IRENA’s innovation and technology center. “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.”

According to the report, key benefits of doubling renewables include the following:

  • 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;
  • 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; and
  • It would boost the global GDP by up to $1.3 trillion.

To achieve this goal, the report identifies the five following priorities for action:

  1. Correcting market distortions to create a level playing field;
  2. Introducing greater flexibility into energy systems to accommodate the variable nature of some forms of renewable energy;
  3. Developing and deploying renewable energy solutions for heating and cooling in new urban development projects and industry;
  4. Promoting electric transport based on renewable power and biofuels to reduce air pollution; and
  5. Ensuring the sustainable, affordable and reliable supply of bioenergy feedstocks.

“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,” says 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 is available here.

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