Fast-Track Energy Transitions to Win the Race to Zero, says IRENA

Proven technologies for a net-zero energy system already largely exist today, finds the preview of World Energy Transitions Outlook by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable power, green hydrogen and modern bioenergy will dominate the world of energy of the future.

March 16, 2021. By Manu Tayal

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Proven technologies for a net-zero energy system already largely exist today, finds the preview of World Energy Transitions Outlook by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable power, green hydrogen and modern bioenergy will dominate the world of energy of the future.

Previewed at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue today, IRENA’s Outlook proposes energy transition solutions for the narrow pathway available to contain the rise of temperature to 1.5°C and halt irreversible global warming. 90 per cent of all decarbonisation solutions in 2050 will involve renewable energy through direct supply of low-cost power, efficiency, renewable-powered electrification in end-use as well as green hydrogen. Carbon capture and removal technologies in combination with bioenergy will deliver the ‘last mile’ CO2 reductions towards a net-zero energy system.

With 2030 deadlines around the corner, this Outlook comes at a critical time when acting fast and bold on global climate pledges is crucial in the decisive year of UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy and Glasgow Climate Conference COP26.

Commenting on the matter, Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA said that, “the window of opportunity to achieve the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal is closing fast. The recent trends show that the gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing but widening. We are heading in the wrong direction. The World Energy Transitions Outlook considers options of the narrow pathway we have to be in line with the 1.5°C goal. We need a drastic acceleration of energy transitions to make a meaningful turnaround. Time will be the most important variable to measure our efforts.”

“While the pathway is daunting, several favourable elements can make it achievable,” La Camera added.

He further said “major economies accounting for over half of global CO2 emissions are turning carbon neutral. Global capital is moving too. We see financial markets and investors shifting capital into sustainable assets. Covid-19 has highlighted the cost of tying economies to fossil fuels and confirmed the resilience of renewable energy. As governments pump huge sums in bailouts and recovery, investment must support energy transition. It is time to act and countries can lead the way with policies for a climate-safe, prosperous and just energy system fit for the 21st century.”

IRENA’s 1.5°C pathway saw a trebling of global power dominated by renewables in 2050. It also eyes a decline in fossil fuel use by more than 75 per cent over the same time, with oil and coal consumption shrinking fastest. Natural gas should peak around 2025, becoming the largest remaining fossil fuel by 2050.

IRENA expects electricity would become the main energy carrier in 2050 with renewable power capacity expanding more than ten-fold over the same period. Transport will also see the highest growth of electrification with a 30-fold increase. Almost 70 per cent of carbon emission reductions in transport will come from direct and indirect electrification. It also expects that green hydrogen will emerge as one of the major demand for electricity, representing 30 per cent of total consumption in 2050. 

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