Global renewables targets

Global renewables targets

As climate change becomes more accepted across the globe, more countries are expanding their renewable energy adoption. As of April 2022, the global capacity for renewable energy (specifically solar and wind) was 1,674 GW. On top of the wind and solar capacity there was capacity for 143 GW of bioenergy and 16 GW of geothermal.

But capacity doesn’t always align with what is in place and the targets set by individual countries. This blog will investigate what goals are in place across the globe and how countries and governments intend to meet renewable energy targets.

Paris Agreement – Global 2°C target

There is a globally recognised target that we must meet to limit the risks of climate change – a 2°C warming of the global temperature in comparison to pre-industrial levels. This target was set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. The agreement was first initiated at COP 21 in Paris, in December 2015 – it later came into effect in November 2016. The aim of the agreement is to limit global warming to 2°C by 2050, but preferably 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this goal, individual countries must take responsibility for their emissions and work towards targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. The reason behind this target is that scientists believe this is the maximum temperature we can reach without experiencing severe repercussions of global warming. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are the main pillars of the energy transition we need to meet this goal.

A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) states that renewable energy must be scaled up at least six times faster in order for us to meet goals set in the Paris Agreement. The IRENA claim that the share of clean energy must rise from around 15% of the energy supply in 2015 to around 66% of global produced power by 2050 to meet the 2°C target. Energy efficiency and source (e.g., switching from fossil fuels to solar) account for over 90% of all energy related CO2 emission reductions needed.

Global renewables capacity

At the beginning of this blog, we mentioned the current global renewable energy capacities listed by the IRENA. At the end of 2021 the global renewable generation capacity was 3,064 GW with a growth of over 9% during 2021. Between 2016 and 2021 the global capacity increased by over 50%, showing great progress in line with the Paris Agreement. Solar and wind had the greatest growth during the past year, with over 125 GW capacity added in 2021 alone.

Credit: IRENA Renewable capacity highlights 2022

Credit: IRENA Renewable capacity highlights 2022

While the progress shows great intentions for renewable energy adoption, the capacity is not growing evenly across the continents. Asia has the largest global share of clean energy generation, sitting at 48%. In comparison Central America (and the Caribbean) and the Middle East both have less than 1% of global shares in renewables.

Installed renewable power

The Renewables Market Report believes that the renewables market will grow by an average of 305 GW per year between 2021 and 2026. By 2027 the global renewables capacity is expected to reach 5,800 GW and renewable power should represent around 95% of all new power capacity installed. The International Energy Agency (IEA) claim that 5,000 GW of renewable energy generation would generate the power capacity equivalent to that of fossil fuel and nuclear energy combined.

However, we’re not quite there yet. The capacity for renewable energy isn’t entirely aligned with the installed capacity and generation. In order to meet the Paris Agreement goals the IEA states that we would need to install around 550 GW of renewable energy annually. To put this into perspective, the highest year of renewable installation was 2021 when around 290 GW was installed. Previously, 2020 held the record with 280 GW installed. In order to meet the target set by the Paris Agreement, the annual installation GWs need to be almost doubled.

Renewable energy jobs

In order to meet the extensive global targets for the Paris Agreement and renewable energy installation, job availability in the renewables sector will be ramped up. A report by the IEA discovered that there are more than 65 million people working in the energy sector – this includes both clean energy and fossil fuels. The good news is that clean energy jobs now account for more than half of the employment in the sector.

Credit: IEA – Energy employment in fossil fuel and clean energy sectors 2019 – 2022

Credit: IEA – Energy employment in fossil fuel and clean energy sectors 2019 – 2022

To meet the goals for 2050, there will need to be an additional 14 million clean energy jobs created by 2030, bringing the total jobs in the renewables industry up to around 45 million.