Doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 could save up to US$4.2 trillion annually, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA said the savings would be up to 15 times higher than costs, thanks to avoided expenditures on air pollution and climate change.

The report, REmap: Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future, was released yesterday at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, and 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 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.”

This 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 30 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. IRENA says there is also great potential to increase renewables in transport, buildings and industry, but these sectors are currently lagging behind.

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

“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.”

Under existing national plans, the global renewables share would only reach 21 per cent by 2030. To achieve a doubling, the annual rate of renewable energy deployment would need to increase sixfold and would require an average annual investment of US$770 billion up to 2030. Achieving this would increase the cost of the global energy system by roughly US$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.

IRENA identifies the following key benefits of doubling renewables by 2030:

  • It would limit average global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels (when coupled with energy efficiency)
  • 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)
  • It would 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
  • It would boost the global GDP by up to US$1.3 trillion

“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 Mr. 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.”

The full report can be found here.