IRENA’s latest edition of Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050 stated that electricity generated from renewables can start to reduce CO2 emissions immediately and significantly. With electricity becoming the central energy carrier covering half of the total energy mix globally by 2050 – from the current 20% – global power supply would double over this period with the bulk generated from renewable energy sources, mainly solar and wind. The main drivers of the increased global electricity demand would be over 1 billion electric vehicles on the roads and increased use of electricity for heat as well as the emergence of renewable hydrogen. Renewable energy and electrification alone can supply two-thirds of global final energy by 2050 and deliver 75% of energy-related CO2 emissions reductions needed.

IRENA director-general Francesco La Camera said: “Electrification is emerging as a key solution for reducing emissions but only if paired with clean electricity, which increasingly can be sourced at the lowest cost from renewable energy. Renewables would then make up two-thirds of energy consumption and 86% of power generation. Renewable electricity paired with deep electrification could reduce CO2 emissions by 60%, representing the largest share of the reductions necessary in the energy sector.”

Renewable energy is the dominant source of new power generation capacity today. At the end of last year, the global generation capacity from renewables amounted to about 2.4 TW, with 61% of new capacity coming from Asia of which China reached 38% of the share alone. In Europe, Germany, Spain and the UK generate 40%, 38% and 33% of renewable electricity generation, respectively. Despite progress and developments made – including electric mobility -, the use of renewables in buildings and industry remains low including progress in energy efficiency. Annual energy-related CO2 emissions need to decline 70% below today’s levels by 2050. According to the report, current plans and policies risk putting the world on a pathway to 2.6 C or higher after 2050, with energy-related CO2 emissions increasing 1.3% annually, on average, for the past five years.

The report also analysed the effect of climate damages on GDP growth in 2050. With renewables increasingly being the least-cost power option available, $15 trillion of investment in renewable energy, electrification and efficiency is required to decarbonise the global energy system, with an overall investment of $110 trillion by 2050. The transformation of global energy generation could boost global economy by 2.5% in 2050 – with business-as-usual – however, when avoided climate damages are factored in, the global economy more than doubles to 5.3% by 2050.

Photo: Courtesy of IRENA