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Doubling Renewables by 2030 Can Save Trillions

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By Rita Joshi | IDN-INPS News Analysis

BERLIN (IDN | INPS) - Doubling renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 is not only feasible, but cheaper than not doing so. It can save up to USD 4.2 trillion annually by 2030 – 15 times more than the costs, says a new report. Under existing national plans, the global renewables share would only reach 21 per cent by 2030. The report recommends options to boost the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix from just over 18 per cent today, to as much as 36 per cent by 2030.

Achieving this would increase the cost of the global energy system by roughly USD 290 billion per year in 2030, but the savings achieved through this doubling – thanks to avoided expenditures on air pollution and climate change – are up to 15 times higher than this cost, says the report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) REmap: Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future, released on March 17 at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue.

Besides, doubling renewables would create more jobs, boost economic growth and save millions of lives annually through reduced air pollution. And it would also, when coupled with greater energy efficiency, put the world on track to keep the rise of temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The second edition of IRENA’s global roadmap broadens its analysis to cover 40 countries, representing 80 per cent of global energy use. According to the report, great strides have been made to increase renewables in the power sector, which is on track to generate roughly 45 per cent of the world’s electricity by 2030 (up from 23 per cent today). If a doubling is achieved, this share would grow to more than 50 per cent.

There is also great potential to increase renewables in transport, buildings and industry, but these sectors are currently lagging behind, adds the report.

“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.”

Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre Dolf Gielen said: “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. 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.”

One of the key benefits of doubling renewables, according to the report is: 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).

Other benefits accruing from doubling renewables are: it would also 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 USD 1.3 trillion.

To achieve this goal, the report identifies five priorities for action including: (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,” said IRENA Director-General. 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.”

IRENA is mandated as the global hub for renewable energy cooperation and information exchange by 145 Members (144 States and the European Union). An additional 31 countries are in the accession process and actively engaged.

IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 March 2016]

IDN is the flagship of International Press Syndicate.

Photo credit: IRENA / COP20

2016 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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