An Unprecedented Momentum for Renewables: Latest Achievements in Review

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An Unprecedented Momentum for Renewables

The success of renewables is not only a story of records and data on energy progress.

It is a story of a pivotal shift in the global energy priorities, culminating in the monumental acknowledgement by the governments around the world at COP28 that tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency by 2030 is the most effective way to stay on the 1.5°C pathway.

This review of the latest achievements in renewable energy expansion shows that renewables remain resilient through multiple crises. The renewable-based energy transition offers a solution to the climate crisis and energy security concerns whilst delivering positive socio-economic impacts for communities and societies.

Still, are the current records enough to achieve the climate goals and a sustainable future for all?

Record growth in installed renewable capacity

As reported last year, 2022 saw the largest ever annual increase in renewable energy capacity. An impressive 83 per cent of all power capacity added last year was produced by renewables.

Overall, 40 per cent of global installed power capacity is now renewable.

Cost-competitiveness of renewables increases despite crises

The fossil fuel price crisis has accelerated the competitiveness of renewable power. Around 86 per cent of all the newly commissioned renewable capacity in 2022 had lower costs than fossil fuel-fired electricity.

IRENA estimates that, in 2022, the renewable power deployed globally since 2000 saved USD 520 billion in fuel costs in the electricity sector.

Record high investments in renewables

Global investment in energy transition technologies in 2022, including energy efficiency, reached USD 1.3 trillion. This set a new record-high, up 19 per cent from 2021 investment levels, and 70 per cent from before the pandemic in 2019.

274 billion dollars have been invested in power grids and flexibility, with grids representing 84 per cent of this investment in 2022. Investments in generation capacity reached 486 billion dollars in 2022.

Energy transition financing is on the rise

Financial pledges towards the IRENA’s climate financing platform, ETAF (Energy Transition Accelerator Facility), reached over 4 billion US dollars, demonstrating the rapidly expanding role of ETAF as an inclusive and effective financing tool for the energy transition.

“When the right conditions are in place, securing financing for renewable energy projects no longer becomes a barrier”, said IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera.

Renewable jobs soar to 13.7 million

Jobs in the renewable energy sector nearly doubled in the last decade. The global total reached 13.7 million in 2022, up from 12.7 million in 2021.

Solar PV is still the fastest-growing sector with almost 4.9 million jobs in 2022, more than a third of the total workforce in the renewable energy sector. Hydropower and biofuels created similar numbers of jobs as in 2021, around 2.5 million each, followed by wind power with 1.4 million jobs.

IRENA’s call to triple renewables becomes a key commitment at COP28

Over 130 governments agreed to triple global renewable capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030, aligning with IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook (WETO) on how to close the energy transition gap to stay on a 1.5°C pathway.

For the pledge to become reality, the currently installed global renewable capacity must reach over 11,000 GW by 2030, adding on average an ambitious 1,000 GW annually till the end of this century. The current investment must more than triple and 131 trillion dollars needs to flow into the energy system by 2050, prioritising technology avenues and infrastructure needs compatible with the 1.5C pathway.

Concrete actions are needed for the pledge to become reality

The latest achievements in renewables mark a shift in the global energy priorities. Still, to meet the climate goals, the commitments must translate into action and lead to tangible progress on the ground to the benefits for all. While progress has been made, great disparities and geographic concentration in the deployment and investment of renewables exist.

“Priorities for the coming years are clear”, said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “The next round of NDCs in 2025 must dramatically accelerate the deployment of renewables by focusing on three priorities: physical infrastructure, policy and regulation, and institutional and human capacity."

As the custodian of the Global Energy Pledges, IRENA will continue monitoring progress on an annual basis to support the tracking of the COP28 commitment and maintain momentum towards 2030.”

The enablers of the energy transition

IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook summarises investment and capacity growth needs of renewables, and identifies three priority actions for the coming years to urgently overcome the systemic barriers stemming from systems and structures created for the fossil fuel era:

  • building and expanding the necessary infrastructure and investing at scale;
  • advancing a policy and regulatory architecture that can facilitate targeted investments, and improve socio-economic and environmental outcomes;
  • a strategic realignment of institutional capacities to help ensure that skills and capabilities match an energy system that integrates a high share of renewables.

IRENA works closely with countries to support the development and implementation of renewable energy policies and strategies in line with the 1.5°C Pathway to make the commitments – a reality.

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