Booming green power might not be enough to meet climate targets

Bloomberg London | Updated on October 21, 2019

Electricity capacity from renewable energy is set to expand by as much as 50 per cent in the next five years, bolstered by government support and falling costs. But more would be needed to slow down warming of the globe.

Those gains represent an increase of about 1,200 gigawatts from 2018 to 2024, equal to the total installed capacity in the US, according to a report published on Monday by the International Energy Agency.

Countries are adding more clean power as a key part of efforts to de-carbonise energy supply, but its still not fast enough, said the organisation that advises rich nations on energy policy.

Increase in deployment

“Renewables are already the world’s second largest source of electricity,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “But their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals.”

As countries in China, Europe and the US increase deployment of wind turbines and solar panels, the share of renewables in global power generation will rise to 30 per cent in 2024, up from 26 per cent now, the IEA said.

A majority of those gains, about 60 per cent, will be achieved by solar power. Costs of both utility-scale and distributed solar PV generation are expected to decline as much as 35 per cent by 2024. That will help make costs of utility-scale solar plants equal to or cheaper than new fossil fuel plants in some countries.

Distributed solar, those panels that are placed on homes, offices and factories is set to boom as costs come down. Much of the expansion will be at commercial and industrial sites. Still, about a quarter of the growth will be residential, with about 100 million solar rooftop systems on homes by 2024.

Providing heat

Renewables are also making gains in providing heat to buildings. Heating and cooling demand from buildings and industry account for roughly half of global energy consumption and is responsible for 40 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

“Heat from renewable energy is set to increase by 22 per cent by 2024,” according to the IEA, with China, the EU, India and US contributing most of that growth. Even so, renewables will only support 12 per cent of global heat consumption by 2024 compared with 10 per cent now.

In India, even as renewable heat consumption is set to increase, its overall share of heat generation will be flat as fossil fuels are deployed to meet growing demand.

Published on October 21, 2019

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