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Renewables share must double in “Decade of Action” to achieve energy transition objectives

The share of renewables in global power should more than double by 2030 to advance the global energy transformation, achieve sustainable development goals and provide a pathway to climate safety, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA says renewable electricity should supply 57% of global power by the end of the decade, up from 26% today. IRENA’s definition of renewables includes bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy.

The 10 Years: Progress to Action booklet, published for the 10th annual Assembly of IRENA,charts recent global advances and outlines the measures still needed to scale up renewables. The agency’s data shows that annual renewable energy investment needs to double from around US$330 billion today to close to US$750 billion to deploy renewable energy at the speed required. Much of the needed investment can be met by redirecting planned fossil fuel investment, IRENA says. Close to US$10 trillion of non-renewables-related energy investments are planned to 2030, which IRENA says risks stranded assets and increases the likelihood of exceeding the world’s 1.5 degree carbon budget this decade.

“We have entered the decade of renewable energy action, a period in which the energy system will transform at unparalleled speed,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “To ensure this happens, we must urgently address the need for stronger enabling policies and a significant increase in investment over the next 10 years. Renewables hold the key to sustainable development and should be central to energy and economic planning all over the world.”

Additional investments bring significant external cost savings, including minimizing losses caused by climate change as a result of inaction. Savings could amount to US$1.6 trillion to US$3.7 trillion annually by 2030, three to seven times higher than investment costs for the energy transformation.

Falling technology costs continue to strengthen the case for renewable energy. IRENA points out that solar PV costs have fallen by almost 90% over the past 10 years and onshore wind turbine prices have fallen by up half in that period. By the end of this decade, solar PV and wind costs may consistently outcompete traditional energy. The two technologies could cover over a third of global power needs.

Renewables can become a vital tool in closing the energy access gap. Off-grid renewables have emerged as a key solution to expand energy access and now deliver access to around 150 million people. IRENA data shows that 60% of new electricity access can be met by renewables in the next decade, with stand-alone and mini-grid systems providing the means for almost half of new access.

IRENA is a global intergovernmental organization that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future and serves as a platform for international co-operation, a center of excellence, and a repository of knowledge on renewable energy.