While it is true that stated national targets fall short of the tripling needed to get back on track to 1.5C, these targets appear to be out of touch with the new reality of renewables. Country targets lead to a doubling of capacity by 2030, but they are systematically underestimating the speed of the transition that is already occurring.
The unprecedented increase in solar deployment in 2023 suggests we are in a new era of renewables growth. The sum of collective national targets would be exceeded simply by continuing this year’s projected annual deployment every year through to 2030. The changes are happening rapidly, and although some countries set their 2030 targets in 2022 or early 2023, they are already outdated and need revising upwards to reflect recent developments. An increase in targets could signal to investors and the renewable energy industry that the market will grow even larger, encouraging this pipeline to expand even more.
The IEA’s recent World Energy Outlook shows that stated policies and announced pledges move the world even closer to a tripling of renewables and the benchmark of 11,000 GW by 2030. The IEA estimates global renewable capacity of 8,611 GW in 2030 based on stated policies and 9,786 GW on announced pledges, compared to 7,250 GW in this study which focuses on official targets. It highlights that countries are not comprehensively considering all of their own energy-related policies, standards, programs, and projects, nor announced pledges in their target setting.
Closing the gap between the current trajectory based on national targets and the goal of global tripling will require increased ambition on the national level. The first step for governments is setting targets that reflect the pace of change. A continuation of current deployment leads to more than the sum of national 2030 targets, so increased ambition is clearly achievable if governments are willing.
But targets alone cannot achieve the necessary progress to triple renewables unless they are supported by robust policy mechanisms. Last month, IRENA, the Global Renewables Alliance and the COP28 presidency released an authoritative report on the Pathway to Tripling Renewables and Doubling Energy Efficiency, which lays out a thorough analysis of policies needed to enable this transformation. Grid expansion in particular is a major enabler, to get cheap renewable electricity from the areas it is being produced to the areas it is being used. The IEA recently highlighted in their first ever report on grids that at least 3,000 GW of renewable power projects are waiting in grid connection queues. These, and other issues such as system flexibility, need to be included when planning for increased renewable capacity.
The analysis in this report highlights that if countries took stock of their own policy landscape, current annual renewable deployment, and the renewable capacity that is in the pipeline, a more ambitious and yet achievable set of targets for 2030 could be developed. This could close the gap between where national targets are, where they could be, and what is needed to meet a global tripling goal.
A rapid acceleration of renewables worldwide will not only bring the 1.5C climate goal within reach, but also bring down energy costs, boost energy security, create jobs and reduce health-harming pollution. It’s a big goal, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.