Renewable energy could save world billions

Boosting renewable energy generation to meet global climate goals could save as much as $4.2trn (€3.75trn) a year by 2030, according to a report asking lawmakers to strengthen clean energy policies.

Renewable energy could save world billions

Doubling the share of renewables in the world’s energy mix to 36% between now and 2030 would cost $290bn (€261bn) a year and limit global warming to below two degrees celsius, according to the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency report published yesterday.

Mitigating against the harmful effects of global warming accounts for much of the savings.

Upfront costs of investing in renewables would be offset by as much as 15 times more savings because the technologies would curb fossil fuel consumption, limit climate change impacts such as rising sea levels and boost energy security, according to the report.

“Achieving a doubling is not only feasible, it is cheaper than not doing so,” said Adnan Amin, director general of the 145-nation agency, called Irena, in a statement. Renewable energy raked in a record $329.3bn of investment last year despite the slump in oil prices, according to estimates and more new renewable energy is being installed each year than fossil fuels.

Irena says even more work will be needed to tackle climate change effectively.

“To reach global climate and development targets, the next phase will require more focus on transport, heating and cooling,” said Dolf Gielen, who directs Irena’s innovation and technology center.

“If a doubling is achieved, these sectors would account for roughly half of renewable energy use in 2030 and so must scale-up dramatically to meet that target.”

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector remained at 32.1bn tonnes in 2015 for a second year in a row, suggesting greenhouse gas pollution has peaked, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said earlier this week.

Renewable power played a crucial role in achieving this by accounting for 90% of new installed power, the IEA said. Irena countered criticism that a shift to renewables would cost jobs in fossil fuel industries such as oil and natural gas.

Doubling renewable energy’s share would lead to a net increase of six million jobs and lead to sustained employment of 24.4m people, up from 9.2m green energy workers today.

Hitting the goals does not require a doubling of renewable energy in every country, the report said. Shares vary depending on factors such as population, economic activity, and existing energy infrastructure.

The US would need to increase its share of renewable energy by 15% while China would need to scale up by 20%.

The report “shows how the world can double the share of renewable energy in the energy mix within this timeframe, reducing global carbon emissions from energy use as much as 35%”, said Adnan Z Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

“We know that doubling the share of renewables by 2030 is possible, and a review of the best practices among different countries shows how it can be done,” he said. “Realising these goals can help fulfil the ambition of the international community to achieve sustainable development and climate change mitigation.”

* Bloomberg and Irish Examiner staff

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