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Renewable Energy Outlook: Share of Renewables Hits Record High in 2015, a Trend that Could Save Trillions


13 April 2016: Two reports recently published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicate that the world can save over US$4 trillion annually by 2030 if the share of renewables in the global energy mix were to double, also by 2030, and that renewable generation capacity has been on the rise, with 2015 marking the highest annual growth rate. While an International Energy Agency (IEA) Energy Business Council meeting examined the global post-Paris energy landscape, regional developments included: a decline of fossil fuel use across the European Union (EU); electricity generation from wind and solar rising by 16% in the countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); and the launch of an interactive Southern African Development Community (SADC) map designed to help meet the region's energy needs and increase the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that comprise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (SDG 7). It is accompanied by a set of targets to be achieved by 2030, including: ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services (target 7.1); increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix (target 7.2); double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency (target 7.3); and enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology (target 7.a). This update on renewable energy tracks the recent weeks' progress towards the implementation of SDG 7 and its related targets, as well as other SDGs.

Global Update

An IRENA report, titled 'Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future,' has found that doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 can save up to US$4.2 trillion annually by 2030. The report outlines options for increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix from just over 18% today, to up to 36% by 2030.

The report identifies five action areas for achieving a doubling: correcting market distortions to create a level playing field; introducing greater flexibility into energy systems to accommodate the variable nature of some forms of renewable energy; developing and deploying renewable energy solutions for heating and cooling in new urban development projects and industry; promoting electric transport based on renewable power and biofuels to reduce air pollution; and ensuring the sustainable, affordable and reliable supply of bioenergy feedstocks.

According to the report, doubling the share of renewables is essential for realizing the global temperature goal of keeping average global temperature rise to 2ºC above preindustrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement. It would also create more jobs, advance economic growth and save millions of lives annually through reduced air pollution. The report thus contributes not only to SDG 7 and target 7.2 in particular, but also to SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts), SDG 8 (Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all) and SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all). [Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future] [Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future: Executive Summary] [IRENA Press Release] [IRENA Newsroom Post] [IRENA Infographics] [Decision Adopting Paris Agreement]

Meanwhile, another IRENA report, titled 'Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2016,' relates chiefly to target 7.2 and SDG 8. This report indicates that during 2015, renewable generation capacity increased by 152 gigawatts (GW), or 8.3% , which is the highest annual growth rate on record. Coupled with a record US$286 billion invested in renewables in 2015, this growth “sends a strong signal to investors and policymakers that renewable energy is now the preferred option for new power generation capacity around the world,” said IRENA's Director-General Adnan Amin.

The report provides statistical data by technology: hydropower; wind; bioenergy; solar; and geothermal energy. The year 2015 was a record year for both wind and solar, with wind power growing 63 GW (17%) and solar capacity increasing 47 GW (26%). These changes, according to the report, have been driven by continued declines in technology costs.

The fastest growth in renewable power generation capacity occurred in developing countries: Central America and the Caribbean grew at a rate of 14.5%. Asia expanded at a rate of 12.4%. Europe and North America saw capacity increases of 5.2% and 6.3%, respectively. [Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2016] [IRENA Press Release] [Renewable Capacity Statistics 2016 Webpage]

Interlinkages among the energy sector and the international climate process were also highlighted during an IEA Energy Business Council meeting held in Paris, France, on 8 April 2016. The meeting was attended not only by IEA member countries but also IEA key partner countries, including China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Chile and Mexico, as well as representatives from the private sector. Among other issues, participants focused on the impact of the Paris Agreement on the global energy sector. [IEA Press Release]

Regional Developments

Increased consumption of renewable energy, including wind, solar and biomass, has led to a continued decline of the use of fossil fuels across the EU, a European Environment Agency (EEA) report, titled 'Renewable energy in Europe 2016: Recent growth and knock-on effects,' has found. The publication assessing progress on the use of renewable energy also finds that clean energy technologies are an important driving force in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and in creating employment in Europe.

The report complements the findings of the 'Trends and Projections in Europe 2015 – Tracking progress towards Europe's climate and energy targets' report on the 2013 renewable energy sources progress for key renewable energy technologies at the EU and national level, and contributes to SDGs 7, particularly target 7.2, and 13. [Renewable energy in Europe 2016] [EEA Press Release]

Also, according to the IEA monthly data, electricity output in 2015 increased across all 34 OECD countries, with electricity generation from wind and solar rising by 16%. Generation from combustible fuels, including coal, gas, oil, combustible renewables and hydro, saw declines of around 1%. The share of OECD electricity from renewables other than combustible renewables, such as biomass, ethanol and wastes, rose to 21.5% from 20.6% in 2014. [IEA Key Electricity Trends 2015 Based on Monthly Data] [IEA Press Release]

Other news from the regions includes the establishment of an IEA- China joint energy center in Beijing, and the launch of an interactive SADC map that will advance the implementation of targets 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3.

The IEA and China's National Energy Administration have embarked on the process of establishing an energy center that would enhance collaboration on energy security, energy data and statistics, energy policy analysis, renewables, energy efficiency and clean energy technologies, thus advancing target 7.a.

According to the IEA, China's energy-related CO2 emissions decreased by 1.5% in 2015, which, it estimates, was largely due to China's use of renewable energy. The world's largest wind power market and the world's largest producer of hydroelectricity, China is also adding more solar photovoltaic capacity each year than any other country. [IEA Press Release]

The SADC interactive map, produced by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), together with the accompanying SADC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Status Report, provide a comprehensive overview of renewable energy and energy efficiency policy, as well as challenges and opportunities for meeting the region's need for accessible, clean and sustainable energy.

The SADC comprises Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. [SADC Interactive Map] [SADC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Status Report] [REN21 Press Release] [SADC Website]

Source: http://climate-l.iisd.org/news/renewable-energy-outlook-share-of-renewables-hits-record-high-in-2015-a-trend-that-could-save-trillions/