The International Renewable Energy Agency’s latest global outlook has spelled out just how ‘woefully’ far the world is from capping temperature rises at 1.5C, and lamented: ‘The stimulus and recovery efforts associated with the pandemic have also proved a missed opportunity.’

The world will need 5.2TW of solar power generation capacity by 2030, and 14TW by mid century, to have any chance of limiting global average temperature rises this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) said today.

The Abu Dhabi-based international body launched the latest edition of its World Energy Transitions Outlook report at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue event and director-general Francesco La Camera, writing the foreword, spelled out: “Progress across all energy uses has been woefully inadequate.”

The world will have to install 450GW of new solar capacity each year – most of it utility scale – for the rest of this decade, with China and India to lead Asia to a roughly half share of the world’s installed PV capacity in 2030, the report’s authors estimated.

What is needed

Elsewhere, North America will need to install 90GW per year of solar to claim a 14% share of the world’s operating panels at the end of the decade, and Europe’s 19% slice of the pie will require 55GW of annual solar capacity additions.

European funding will also help North Africa make its contribution to the 70GW of annual solar capacity additions which will be required across the Middle East and Africa with European energy demand ensuring grid connections with North Africa flourish.

To have a hope of avoiding the worst effects of climate change, Latin America will need 20GW of new solar annually this decade and a further “more than 2GW” will be needed each year across the Oceania and Pacific region, the Irena report estimated.

Of course, it is not just solar that the world needs and, with the 348-page report calling for massive electrification and energy efficiency efforts, enabled by the full suite of clean energy sources, hydrogen, and biomass, we will have to start devoting $5.7 trillion per year to the energy transition for the rest of the decade, according to Irena.

That can be feasible if the $700 billion per year channeled into fossil fuels is immediately diverted to the transition, the publication stated. Public investment in the transition will have to immediately double, too, said Irena, to attract the remaining money needed from the private sector, which would bear most of the financial burden.

Jobs

In return for the investment sought – including to ensure there are 147 million electric vehicles (EVs) per year hitting the roads in 2050, that $131 billion is invested annually in EV charging by that point, and that 350GW of green hydrogen electrolyzers are operating as early as 2030 – the world can anticipate a jobs dividend.

Irena has estimated the 12 million job losses it anticipates in the fossil fuel and nuclear industries will be comfortably outweighed by “close to” 85 million new energy-transition roles this decade, including 26.5 million in clean energy.

It is all a matter of political will, Irena pointed out, with policymakers also needing to usher in sufficient international grid connections and flexibility; training; utility scale batteries; electricity demand-side management; digital tools; peer-to-peer power trading; community ownership of renewables; time-of-use energy tariffs; and net billing systems.