‘USD 35 trillion investment by 2030 needed’ for successful transition

4 April 2023

The global energy transition is off-track, aggravated by the effects of global crises, according to a preview of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s ‘World Energy Transitions Outlook 2023’, which calls for a fundamental course correction in the transition.

A successful energy transition, it says, demands bold, transformative measures reflecting the urgency of the present situation. Investment and comprehensive policies across the globe and all sectors must grow renewables and instigate the structural changes required for the predominantly renewables-based energy transition.

The Preview shows that the scale and extent of change falls far short of the 1.5°C pathway. Progress has been made, notably in the power sector where renewables account for 40 % of installed power generation globally, contributing to an unprecedented 83 % of global power additions in 2022. But to keep 1.5°C alive, deployment levels must grow from some 3000 GW today to over 10 000 GW in 2030, an average of 1000 GW annually. Deployment is also limited to certain parts of the world. China, the European Union and the United States accounted for two-thirds of all additions last year, leaving developing nations further behind.

IRENA’s director-general Francesco La Camera commented: “The stakes could not be higher. A profound and systemic transformation of the global energy system must occur in under 30 years, underscoring the need for a new approach to accelerate the energy transition. Pursuing fossil fuel and sectoral mitigation measures is necessary but insufficient to shift to an energy system fit for the dominance of renewables.”

“The emphasis must shift from supply to demand, toward overcoming the structural obstacles impeding progress. IRENA’s Preview outlines three priority pillars of the energy transition, the physical infrastructure, policy and regulatory enablers and well-skilled workforce, requiring significant investment and new ways of co-operation in which all actors can engage in the transition and play an optimal role.”

The Preview warns that a lack of progress further increases investment needs and calls for a systematic change in the volume and type of investments to prioritise the energy transition.

Although global investment in energy transition technologies reached a new record of USD 1.3 trillion in 2022, yearly investments must more than quadruple to over USD 5 trillion to stay on the 1.5°C pathway. By 2030, cumulative investments must amount to USD 44 trillion, with transition technologies representing 80 % of the total, or USD 35 trillion, prioritising efficiency, electrification, grid expansion and flexibility.

Any new investment decisions should be carefully assessed to simultaneously drive the transition and reduce the risk of stranded assets. Some 41 per cent of planned investment by 2050 remains targeted at fossil fuels. Around USD 1 trillion of planned annual fossil fuel investment by 2030 must be redirected towards transition technologies and infrastructure to keep the 1.5°C target within reach.

Furthermore, public sector intervention is required to channel investments towards countries in a more equitable way. In 2022, 85 % of global renewable energy investment benefitted less than 50 % of the world’s population. Africa accounted for only 1 % of additional capacity in 2022. IRENA’s ‘Global Landscape of renewable energy 2023’ confirms that regions home to about 120 developing and emerging markets continue to receive comparatively little investment.

The full WETO report will be released later this year.

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