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Call for large-scale energy transformation

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report "Global Warming of 1.5 °C has underlined the urgency of taking decisive action to tackle climate change. Considering that two thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originate from the energy sector, the IPCC unequivocally calls for an urgent large-scale energy transformation. Renewable energy and energy efficiency need to be at the heart of this transformation. Together, they represent a safe, reliable, affordable and immediately deployable pathway that can achieve over 90 per cent of the energy-related CO2 emission reductions needed to meet climate goals.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050 estimates that meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement would require us to reach a share of at least two thirds renewables in total final energy supply by 2050, while the share of renewable energy in the power sector would need to increase from 25% in 2017 to 85%. The good news is that we have technically feasible and economically attractive solutions at hand to achieve this. Indeed, there is a unique opportunity to accelerate transformation towards digitalised, decentralised and decarbonised energy systems.

Today, renewable energy already meets a quarter of global electricity demand, and there is strong momentum. In 2017 alone, the world installed 168 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, a record in terms of newly added capacity. Moreover, due to falling costs across the technology spectrum, renewables are quickly becoming the most cost-effective source of new power generation in much of the world. Since 2010, the average costs of utility-scale solar PV and wind turbines have fallen by an impressive 73% and 23% respectively. Irena estimates that all renewable energy power generation technologies that are currently in commercial use will be fully competitive with traditional sources by 2020. A true milestone.

These falling costs have brought corporate actors to the table too. In 2017, companies in 75 countries actively sourced 465 terawatt hours of renewable energy, an amount close to the overall electricity consumption of France. More than 200 companies reported covering at least half of their power demand with renewables.

In line with this analysis, the global energy transformation would also lead to a one per cent growth of global GDP by 2050 and the creation of millions of new jobs. Nearly 40 million people would be directly employed in renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2050. In fact, last year alone, the renewable energy sector created half a million new jobs, reaching a total of 10.3 million. Additional social benefits include reduced air pollution, better health and lower environmental damage.

Scaling-up the deployment of renewables is a cost-effective pathway to reduce the significant GHG emissions emanating from the energy sector, making it a key pillar in global efforts to achieve climate objectives. In addition, energy sector transformation can spur global economic growth and significantly improve social welfare. This is truly an opportunity that none of us can afford to miss.
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About the author

Adnan Amin is the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency
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