IRENA: Tripling renewable energy by 2030 requires higher annual growth rate

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has released its Renewable Energy Statistics 2024, which says that despite renewable energy becoming the fastest growing energy source, the world risks falling short of the COP28 target of tripling renewable energy. To stay on track, the world will need to increase renewable energy capacity at a rate of at least 16.4% per year until 2030, according to IRENA.

Illustration; Archive; Courtesy of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

IRENA said the 14 per cent increase in renewable capacity in 2023 would set a 10 per cent annual growth rate (2017-2023), adding that, combined with a steady decline in non-renewable capacity additions over the years, this trend indicates that renewable energy is on track to overtake fossil fuels in global installed capacity.

However, the agency also pointed out that if last year’s 14% growth is maintained, the tripling target of 11.2 TW by 2030, set out in IRENA’s 1.5°C scenario, would be 1.5 TW short of the target, or 13.5% short of it. Furthermore, if the world maintains an annual growth rate of 10%, it would only accumulate 7.5 TW of renewable capacity by 2030, or almost a third short of the target, IRENA said.

Francesco LaCamera, The Director General of IRENA stated: “Renewable energy is increasingly outperforming fossil fuels, but this is not the time for complacency. Renewable energy must grow faster and at greater scale. Our new report sheds light on the direction of progress; if we continue at the current rate of growth, we will not meet the tripling of the renewable energy target agreed in the UAE Consensus at COP28, risking the achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

“As the custodian agency tasked with monitoring progress, IRENA is committed to supporting countries on their paths to achieving the goal, but we need concrete policy actions and a massive mobilisation of finance at full speed to collectively achieve our goal. Consolidated global data conceals ongoing patterns of concentration by geography. These patterns threaten to exacerbate the decarbonisation divide and pose a significant barrier to achieving the tripling target.”

Sultan Al-Jaber, The COP28 President commented: “Today’s report is a wake-up call for the world: while we are making progress, we are far from achieving the global target of tripling renewable energy capacity to 11.2 TW by 2030. We need to accelerate the pace and scale of development. That means increasing cooperation between governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations and civil society.”

“Governments must set clear renewable energy targets, consider actions such as accelerating permitting and expanding grid connections, and implement smart policies that compel industry to act and encourage private sector investment. In addition, this moment provides a significant opportunity to add strong national energy targets to the NDCs to support the global goal of keeping the 1.5°C goal within reach. Above all, we must change the narrative that climate investment is a burden to an unprecedented opportunity for shared socio-economic development.”

In terms of energy generation, IRENA said the latest data available for 2022 once again confirm regional differences in renewable energy deployment:

“Asia maintains its lead in global renewable energy production with 3,749 terawatt-hours (TWh), followed for the first time by North America (1,493 TWh). The most impressive jump came in South America, where renewable energy production increased by almost 12% to 940 TWh, driven by the reconstruction of hydropower plants and a greater role for solar power. With a modest increase of 3.5%, Africa increased its renewable energy production to 205 TWh in 2022, despite the continent’s enormous potential and dire need for rapid, sustainable growth.”

It is worth noting that IRENA is implementing the Accelerated Partnership for Renewables in Africa (APRA) initiative and is preparing an investment forum focusing on APRA member countries to be held in late 2024.