‘This is possible’: IEA calls for faster growth on international clean energy

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has claimed that the majority of clean technologies and infrastructure needed to deliver net-zero globally are not being deployed quickly enough, but that some “promising developments” have taken shape in the past 12 months.

‘This is possible’: IEA calls for faster growth on international clean energy

Solar PV is also “on track” to align with net-zero requirements

The IEA’s Tracking Clean Energy Progress online resource has been published this week, assessing more than 50 different components – from EVs and renewables to buildings and heat pumps – to track whether net-zero emissions can be delivered globally by 2050.

The tracker finds that the majority of analysed technologies are not yet on a path consistent with net-zero emissions by 2050, but that the rapid growth of some clean solutions like solar and EVs could be mirrored in other markers to spur progress.

“The clean energy economy is rapidly taking shape, but even faster progress is needed in most areas to meet international energy and climate goals,” the IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said.

“This update of Tracking Clean Energy Progress highlights some very promising developments, underlining both the need and the potential for greater action globally. The extraordinary growth of key technologies like solar and electric cars shows what is possible.”

Technology breakthroughs

On EVs, the tracker found that sales reached a record high of more than 10 million in 2022, a tenfold increase over the last five years. Manufacturing capacity for EV batteries has, for the first time, reach levels that the IEA deems sufficient to meet demand requirements by 2030 under the IEA’s own net-zero scenarios.

Solar PV is also “on track” to align with net-zero requirements. Solar generated a record of almost 1,300 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2022, a 26% increase compared to 2021. Solar also logged the largest generation growth of all renewables last year.

More broadly, renewable electricity capacity rose by an additional 340GW and now accounts for 30% of global electricity generation. Investment in low-carbon energy increased by 15% in 2022 to $1.6trn. The IEA also estimates that renewable power capacity will increase by 33% this year, but this is concentrated in China, Europe and the US.

This trend is also mirrored by the EV market, where China, the US and Europe accounted for 95% of global EV sales in 2022.

Increases in these nations have been driven by new flagship climate policies. The Inflation Reduction Act in the US, for example, is a package of measures to help vulnerable people pay for health care and to reduce emissions, with a focus on energy and transport. Elsewhere, the Fit for 55 package and REPowerEU plan in the European Union are spurring market growth.

The IEA also welcomed “notable progress” in the buildings sector, but warned that new innovation and clean technologies were needed for parts of the energy system where emissions are harder to tackle, such as heavy industry and long-distance transport.

The report reiterates previous IEA research that the amount invested annually in clean energy in emerging and developing nations will need to more than triple to reach $2.8trn within ten years.

Earlier this year, research from the IEA found that clean energy manufacturing could be worth more than $650bn annually to the global economy by 2050.

The IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2023  found that countries will need to overcome challenges related to supply chain concentration and a limited workforce in order to realise the economic potential of clean technology sectors. The report also states that clean energy manufacturing jobs could more than double to 14 million by 2030.

In May 2023, the IEA’s State of Clean Technology Manufacturing report found that, since 2022, the estimated output of manufacturing projects for solar solutions by 2030 has increased by 60%. Additionally, outputs for energy storage and battery solutions are up 25% by the same metrics.

The IEA claims that there is “growing global momentum behind a new energy economy”, but that manufacturing opportunities are dominated by three markets, namely China. If all announced clean technology projects worldwide were completed, the share of manufacturing clustered in these markets would shift to between 70% and 95% by 2030.

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