IEA report says 50% growth last year keeps hope of achieving Cop28 climate target of tripling clean energy capacity
In 2023, global renewable energy capacity experienced its most rapid expansion in the past two decades, potentially bringing the world closer to achieving a crucial climate target by the decade’s end, as per the International Energy Agency (IEA).
According to IEA data, renewable energy worldwide surged by 50% in the previous year, reaching 510 gigawatts (GW) in 2023. This marks the 22nd consecutive year in which additions to renewable capacity established a new record.
The remarkable growth presents a tangible opportunity for governments globally to fulfill the commitment made at the Cop28 climate talks in November, aiming to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030. This ambitious goal is intended to significantly decrease reliance on fossil fuels, as emphasized by the IEA.
The most recent report from the IEA revealed that solar power constituted 75 percent of the newly installed renewable energy capacity worldwide in the past year. China, despite reducing subsidies in 2020 and 2021, led in the construction of most of the world’s new solar power, surpassing the total global commissioning from the previous year.
The IEA predicts that due to unprecedented growth rates in Europe, the US, and Brazil, renewables are poised to surpass coal as the primary source of global electricity generation by early 2025. Looking ahead, the IEA forecasts that by 2028, more than 42 percent of global electricity generation will be derived from renewable energy sources.
Tripling global renewable energy by the end of the decade to help cut carbon emissions is one of five main climate targets designed to prevent runaway global heating, alongside doubling energy efficiency, cutting methane emissions, transitioning away from fossil fuels, and scaling up financing for emerging and developing economies.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “It’s excellent news to see the historical and spectacular growth of renewable energy.” He added that while the report shows that global renewable capacity is already on course to increase by two-and-a-half times by 2030, it is not yet expected to reach the Cop28 goal of tripling renewables.
“We’re not there, but we’re not a million miles away,” Birol said. “And governments have the tools needed to close the gap.”
Birol downplayed concerns that fast-rising costs facing wind developers in the US and Europe will be a drag on the industry’s long-term growth. The combination of higher interest rates and supply chain costs has forced some developers to cancel big offshore wind projects, and raised concerns over the future of the technology.
“I would be very careful not to confuse a cyclical increase in costs with a structural increase in costs. Costs will continue to come down in the industry, as the cyclical costs of today begin to ease,” Birol said.
Emerging and developing economies will face challenges accessing finance, strengthening governance and creating robust regulatory frameworks which will be essential to reducing investor risk and attract investment, the IEA said, which may include establishing new targets and policies in countries where they do not exist yet.
“For me, the most important challenge for the international community is rapidly scaling up financing and deployment of renewables in most emerging and developing economies, many of which are being left behind in the new energy economy. Success in meeting the tripling goal will hinge on this,” Birol said.