Renewable Energy Capacity Jumps, Opening Door to Climate Goal

The “Renewables 2023” report reveals that renewable energy capacity witnessed a staggering 50% growth in 2023, reaching nearly 510 gigawatts (GW).

In a groundbreaking report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) unveils an unprecedented surge in the world’s capacity to generate renewable electricity, signaling a remarkable opportunity to achieve the ambitious goal set at the COP28 climate change conference. The report, titled “Renewables 2023,” reveals that renewable energy capacity witnessed a staggering 50% growth in 2023, reaching nearly 510 gigawatts (GW).

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology spearheaded this remarkable surge, contributing three-quarters of the global additions.

China emerged as a pivotal player in this renewable energy revolution, commissioning as much solar PV in 2023 as the entire world did in the previous year. Additionally, China’s wind power additions soared by an impressive 66% year-on-year. Notably, other key players such as Europe, the United States, and Brazil also experienced record-high increases in renewable energy capacity.

The report, the first comprehensive assessment since COP28 concluded in December, demonstrates that under existing policies and market conditions, global renewable power capacity is anticipated to reach 7,300 GW between 2023 and 2028. Solar PV and wind are projected to account for a staggering 95% of this expansion, surpassing coal to become the world’s primary source of electricity by early 2025.

Despite this unprecedented growth, the world remains challenged to meet the COP28 target of tripling capacity by 2030. IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol emphasizes that, while progress is evident, governments must leverage tools at their disposal to bridge the remaining gap. Onshore wind and solar PV are now more cost-effective than new fossil fuel plants in most regions, presenting a compelling case for accelerated adoption.

The report introduces the Renewable Energy Progress Tracker, a tool enabling users to explore historical data and forecasts at regional and country levels, closely monitoring progress toward the tripling goal. Dr. Birol underscores the need for rapid scaling up of financing and deployment in emerging and developing economies, where significant strides are crucial for global success.

The path to tripling renewables by 2030 varies across countries, regions, and technologies. The report outlines an accelerated case wherein more robust policy implementation could drive renewable power capacity growth 21% higher than the main forecast, aligning the world with the tripling pledge.

Advanced and large emerging economies face challenges such as policy uncertainty, inadequate investment in grid infrastructure, and administrative barriers, while emerging and developing economies must focus on finance accessibility, governance, and regulatory frameworks.

Looking ahead, solar PV and onshore wind deployment in the United States, the European Union, India, and Brazil are projected to more than double by 2028 compared to the previous five years.

The declining cost of solar PV modules, coupled with ongoing advancements, positions these technologies for sustained growth. However, the wind industry, excluding China, faces challenges such as supply chain disruptions, higher costs, and lengthy permitting timelines, requiring targeted policy attention.

The report also provides a sobering assessment of renewable-based hydrogen, revealing that only 7% of the proposed capacity from announced projects worldwide is expected to come online by 2030. Challenges include slow project progress, limited off-taker interest, and higher production costs, necessitating consistent policies to bolster demand and attract investors.

In 2023, biofuels have emerged as a key player, with emerging economies like Brazil and India anticipated to drive 70% of global demand over the next five years. Biofuels are gaining traction in sectors such as air travel and as a substitute for highly polluting fuels like diesel. Despite accelerated deployment, the report underscores the need for a substantial increase in demand by 2030 to align biofuels with a net-zero pathway.

The IEA’s report serves as a vital benchmark in assessing progress and challenges in the global transition to renewable energy, offering insights into the critical steps required to achieve the tripling goal by 2030. As the world embraces the renewable energy revolution, governments, industries, and investors must collaborate to overcome hurdles and propel the planet towards a sustainable and greener future.