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Massive capacity expansion opens door to achieving global tripling goal – IEA

Massive capacity expansion opens door to achieving global tripling goal – IEA
China commissioned as much solar PV in 2023 as the entire world did in 2022, while China’s wind power additions rose by 66 percent year-on-year according to IEA's Renewables 2023 report.

The world’s capacity to generate renewable electricity is expanding faster than at any time in the last three decades, giving it a real chance of achieving the goal of tripling global capacity by 2030 that governments set at the recently concluded COP28 climate change conference in Dubai, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says in a new report.

The amount of renewable energy capacity added to energy systems around the world grew by 50 percent in 2023, reaching almost 510 gigawatts (GW), with solar PV accounting for three-quarters of additions worldwide, according to Renewables 2023, the latest edition of the IEA’s annual market report on the sector published on January 11, 2024.

The latest analysis is the first comprehensive assessment of global renewable energy deployment trends since the conclusion of the COP28 conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December 2023.

The report shows that under existing policies and market conditions, global renewable power capacity is now expected to grow to 7,300 GW over the 2023-28 period covered by the forecast.

The new IEA report shows that under current policies and market conditions, global renewable capacity is already on course to increase by two-and-a-half times by 2030. It’s not enough yet to reach the COP28 goal of tripling renewables, but we’re moving closer – and governments have the tools needed to close the gap, said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of IEA.

Record solar PV and wind growth

The forecast growth in renewable power capacity this decade is not quite enough to reach the COP28 goal of tripling capacity by 2030 (graphic courtesy IEA).

Solar PV and wind account for 95 percent of the expansion, with renewables overtaking coal to become the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025.

The largest growth took place in China, which commissioned as much solar PV in 2023 as the entire world did in 2022, while China’s wind power additions rose by 66 percent year-on-year.

The increases in renewable energy capacity in Europe, the United States, and Brazil also hit all-time highs.

But despite the unprecedented growth over the past 12 months, the world needs to go further to triple capacity by 2030, which countries agreed to do at COP28.

Onshore wind and solar PV are cheaper today than new fossil fuel plants almost everywhere and cheaper than existing fossil fuel plants in most countries. There are still some big hurdles to overcome, including the difficult global macroeconomic environment. For me, the most important challenge for the international community is rapidly scaling up financing and deployment of renewables in most emerging and developing economies, many of which are being left behind in the new energy economy. Success in meeting the tripling goal will hinge on this, Dr Faith Birol said.

Alongside the report, the IEA also released a new Renewable Energy Progress Tracker, which allows users to explore historical data and forecasts at the regional and country level, including tracking progress towards the tripling goal.

Need to address finance, policy, and regulatory governance

What is needed to triple renewables by 2030 varies significantly by country, region, and technology.

The Renewables 2023 report lays out an accelerated case in which more rapid policy implementation drives renewable power capacity growth 21 percent higher than in the main forecast, which would push the world towards being on track to meet the global tripling pledge.

Notes: CSP = concentrated solar power. Capacity additions refer to net additions. Historical and forecast solar PV capacity may differ from previous editions of the renewable energy market report. This year, PV data for all countries have been converted to DC (direct current), increasing capacity for countries reporting in AC (alternating current). Conversions are based on an IEA survey of more than 80 countries and interviews with PV industry associations. Solar PV systems work by capturing sunlight using photovoltaic cells and converting it into DC electricity. The DC electricity is then usually converted using an inverter, as most electrical devices and power systems use AC. Until about 2010, AC and DC capacity in most PV systems were similar, but with developments in PV system sizing, these two values may now differ by up to 40%, especially in utility-scale installations. Solar PV and wind additions include capacity dedicated to hydrogen production (graphic courtesy IEA).

In advanced and large emerging economies, this would mean addressing challenges such as policy uncertainty in a fragile economic environment, insufficient investment in grid infrastructure to accommodate greater shares of renewables, and cumbersome administrative barriers and permitting delays.

In other emerging and developing economies, access to finance, strong governance, and robust regulatory frameworks are essential to reduce risk and attract investment, including establishing new targets and policies in countries where they do not exist yet.

Solar PV and onshore wind deployment through 2028 is expected to more than double in the United States, the European Union, India, and Brazil, compared with the last five years.

Prices for solar PV modules in 2023 declined by almost 50 percent year-on-year, with cost reductions and fast deployment set to continue.

This is because global manufacturing capacity is forecast to reach 1,100 GW by the end of 2024, significantly exceeding demand.

By contrast, the wind industry, outside of China, is facing a more challenging environment due to a combination of ongoing supply chain disruption, higher costs, and long permitting timelines, which require stronger policy attention.

Green hydrogen hype?

The report also provides a reality check on the momentum behind renewable-based hydrogen, assessing how many announced projects are likely to go ahead.

Of all the projects announced worldwide to use renewables to produce hydrogen this decade, only 7 percent of the proposed capacity is expected to come online by 2030.

The slow pace of projects reaching an investment decision combined with limited appetite from off-takers and higher production costs have led to slower progress on many projects.

To fully convince investors, ambitious project announcements will have to be followed by consistent policies supporting demand.

Biofuels deployment accelerating but not quickly enough

In 2023, the role of biofuels has also come to the fore. Emerging economies, led by Brazil and India, are expected to drive 70 percent of global demand over the next five years as biofuels start to show their true potential in hard-to-abate sectors such as air travel and as a replacement for highly polluting fuels like diesel.

While the deployment of biofuels is accelerating, the Renewables 2023 report shows that this is not happening quickly enough, with a significant increase in demand by 2030 needed to align biofuels with a net zero pathway.

This report is the first key installment of the IEA’s follow-up work on the energy outcomes of COP28 that will continue throughout 2024 and beyond. This is based on the five key pillars we set out ahead of COP28 and covers tripling renewables, doubling energy efficiency, cutting methane emissions, transitioning away from fossil fuels, and scaling up financing for emerging and developing economies. We will be following very closely to see whether countries are delivering on their promises and implementing appropriate policies, ended Dr Faith Birol.

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