Renewables on the up

Source: BY MATTHEW CHOI, Politico • Posted: Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The world is getting more renewables, but it won’t be enough to hit net-zero global emissions by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2021 renewables report released today.

The report paints a rosy picture for the clean energy sector, with global renewable generation capacity matching the current combined capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear by 2026. Renewables will also account for nearly 95 percent of global power growth in that period, according to the report. That’s 50 percent more than the growth rate from 2015 to 2020.

IEA is also projecting strong biofuels growth this year, outpacing 2019 levels and bouncing back from last year’s pandemic slump. Biofuels are set to have a robust future, with Asia accounting for nearly 30 percent of new production by 2026, and India slated to become the third largest market for ethanol behind the U.S. and Brazil, according to the agency.

The report comes on the heels of the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow last month, where world leaders announced a parade of new commitments on everything from international coal financing to methane emissions. IEA credits the momentum for some of its projected renewables growth, but whether or not governments actually follow through on their commitments is a very big if. Some of the most ambitious pledges, including one to phase out the use of fossil fuels and another to end domestic coal financing, failed to garner the backing of major emitters, such as the United States and China.

Renewables also face high production costs and permitting and grid challenges — factors IEA challenges governments to address. Those are also issues high on Democrats’ mind domestically, with lawmakers including tax incentives for renewable energy as part of their reconciliation bill. The partisan spending measure as well as the bipartisan infrastructure package also include handsome sums for upgrading the grid, connecting consumers with parts of the country best suited for renewable generation.

“This year’s record renewable electricity additions of 290 gigawatts are yet another sign that a new global energy economy is emerging,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol in a statement. “The high commodity and energy prices we are seeing today pose new challenges for the renewable industry, but elevated fossil fuel prices also make renewables even more competitive.”

Read the report here.