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Doubling the share of renewables in the energy mix can boost global gross domestic product by as much as USD 1.3 trillion, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency says, countering popular belief that coal is crucial to fuel economic growth

(Image by micagoto)

(Image by micagoto)

Doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 can save up to USD 4.2 trillion every year, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization that promotes clean energy.  The savings could be up to 15 times higher than the installation and maintenance costs due to avoided expenditure on air pollution and climate change. This would in turn raise global gross domestic product (GDP) by up to USD 1.3 trillion.

The report, titled REmap: Roadmap for a Renewable Energy Future, was released on March 17 at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue. It suggests ways to boost the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix from just over the current 18% to 36% by 2030. The Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue is an international meet to discuss an ecofriendly energy system that is based on renewables and energy efficiency.

“Achieving a doubling is not only feasible, it is cheaper than not doing so,” IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said in a statement. “REmap shows this is not only the most economic pathway, but also the most socially and environmentally conscious. It would create more jobs, save millions of lives from reduced air pollution and set us on a pathway to limit global temperature rise to two degrees as agreed in Paris.”

This second edition of IRENA’s global roadmap broadens its analysis to cover 40 countries, representing 80% of global energy use. “The energy transition is well underway in the power sector, but to reach global climate and development targets, the next phase will require more focus on transport, heating and cooling,” said Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre. “If a doubling is achieved, these sectors would account for roughly half of renewable energy use in 2030 and so (we) must scale-up dramatically to meet that target.”

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said: “The enormous opportunities and multiple benefits of renewable energies become clearer every day and with every report. IRENA’s latest analysis confirms this reality and this trend. The Paris climate agreement underlines these facts, and its success is predicated on ever increasing penetration of clean energy technologies.”

Under current national plans, the global share of renewables would only reach 21% by 2030. The report says the annual rate of renewable energy deployment needs to increase six-fold and requires an average annual investment of USD 770 billion up to 2030. Although it would increase the cost of the global energy system by some USD 290 billion per year in 2030, it will also result in savings of 15 times the cost on the current expenses due to air pollution and climate change impacts.

The benefits of a concerted initiative towards this include limiting average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels when coupled with energy efficiency; avoiding up to 12 gigatonnes of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2030; creating 24.4 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2030, compared with 9.2 million in 2014; and reducing air pollution to save up to 4 million lives per year in 2030.

To achieve this goal, the report identifies five priorities. They include correcting market distortions to create a level playing field; introducing greater flexibility into energy systems to accommodate the variable nature of some forms of renewable energy; developing and deploying renewable energy solutions for heating and cooling in new urban development projects and industry; promoting electric transport based on renewable power and biofuels to reduce air pollution; and ensuring the sustainable, affordable and reliable supply of bioenergy feedstock (waste oil, crop residue etc. that can be converted into biofuels)

The new analysis comes a day after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that due to the sustained surge in renewable energy deployment, economic growth has decoupled from carbon pollution.

“According to IRENA, simply doubling our current capacity will inject trillions of dollars into the global economy, save millions of lives and create millions more clean jobs,” said Wael Hmaidan, Director at Climate Action Network International.

“As the world measurably warms because of the burning of fossil fuels, IRENA’s report shows renewable energy provides a way to pull our heads out of the oven while providing jobs as well as significant economic and environmental benefits,” said Emily Rochon, Global Energy Strategist, Greenpeace International.

(Pie chart by IndiaSpend)

(Pie chart by IndiaSpend)

The Indian government has ambitious targets for renewable energy that could result in a quarter of the country’s total generation capacity coming from this segment by 2050. But the same can increase to a whooping 40% by 2030 and make India the world’s fourth-largest consumer of the renewables, if the global renewable energy supplies are doubled, according to the report.

“We have made a massive shift to renewables and that is still going to be concurrent with the declining role of the coal,” said Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a think tank based in New Delhi. “Despite significant ramp-up, the impact of renewables will be primarily seen in the energy sector while transportation, cooling and industrial heating sectors continue to be fossil-reliant. In the current scenario, their energy needs can’t be met by renewables. So, it is important to see how we make this shift.”

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