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January 11, 2024

Close ‘policy gap’ or miss COP28 renewables target, IEA warns governments

A floating solar farm in Huainan, China. In 2023, the country commissioned as much solar PV as the whole world did in 2022, but it is also continuing its coal expansion. (Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)
A floating solar farm in Huainan, China. In 2023, the country commissioned as much solar PV as the whole world did in 2022, but it is also continuing its coal expansion. (Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Under existing policies and market conditions, global renewable capacity would increase 2.5 times by 2030 compared with today – falling short of the COP28 target to triple renewables

Policies are not ambitious enough if governments are to fulfil their pledge made at COP28 in Dubai in late 2023 to triple renewable energy capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts by 2030, says the International Energy Agency in its Renewables 2023 report.

The IEA calculates that current policies and market conditions would take the total global renewable capacity to 7,300GW by 2028; on this growth trajectory, 2022 levels would increase by only 2.5 times by 2030. 

For the target to be met, the IEA says four main challenges need to be addressed, namely: policy uncertainties, including the lack of stable regulatory frameworks and incentive schemes in many countries; insufficient investment in grid infrastructure; administrative barriers including social acceptance issues; and insufficient financing in emerging and developing economies.

“Governments have the tools needed to close the gap,” according to IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “Onshore wind and solar [photovoltaics] are cheaper today than new fossil fuel plants almost everywhere, and cheaper than existing fossil fuel plants in most countries.”

According to the IEA, 2023 saw record renewables growth. The amount of renewable energy capacity added to energy systems globally increased by 50 per cent in 2023, reaching almost 510GW – the fastest growth in the past two decades, says the agency, with solar PV accounting for three-quarters of additions worldwide.

“The level of deployment reached in 2023 makes it clear that a tripling of renewables is entirely achievable,” says Dave Jones, a programme director at global energy think tank Ember, in a statement.

China led last year’s growth, commissioning as much solar PV as the whole world did in 2022, while its wind additions grew by 66 per cent compared with the previous 12 months. 

This trend is expected to continue in the coming years, with the country set to install more than half of the new renewable capacity required globally by 2030. The IEA says China’s role in the world reaching the global renewables target is “critical”.

However, a November report by think-tanks the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and the Heinrich Böll Foundation says clean energy growth in China is being “undermined by continued coal expansion and rapid growth in energy consumption”. Since the start of 2022, the Chinese government has granted permits to 152GW and started construction on 92GW of new coal power capacity, the CREA report says.

The IEA predicts that in 2025, renewables will surpass coal to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide.

The IEA report is available to read here.

A service from the Financial Times