Energy & Environment

Renewable energy agency head says only ‘radical action’ will accomplish transition

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Francesco La Camera, the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said “radical action” is needed for world powers to transition off fossil fuels in time to avert catastrophic warming.

La Camera made the remarks in conjunction with the release of IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook, a report on the state of the transition to renewables and the actions necessary to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To achieve the 1.5-degree target, the goal set out by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, renewable energy capacity must be deployed at triple the current rate, according to the report. It calls this goal achievable with the right upgrades to infrastructure; however, individual countries must also update their existing regulatory structures, many of which were developed with only fossil fuels in mind.

Staying on track for the goal will require renewable energy to comprise 65 percent of electricity generation, or an additional 8,000 gigawatts, by 2030, the report states. This includes quadrupling onshore wind capacity to about 3,000 gigawatts and a 30 percent increase in hydropower.

Direct electricity’s portion of total final energy consumption, or the total energy used by end users, must increase nearly 10 percent, from 21 percent to 30 percent, according to the report.

Electric vehicles, which were 8.3 percent of global car sales last year, are already expected to increase in proliferation in the years ahead. However, IRENA said this must be accompanied by a major ramping-up of infrastructure for such vehicles. By 2030, it says electric vehicles should be the majority of car sales.

“The energy transition is far from being on track and anything short of radical action in the coming years will diminish, even eliminate chances to meet our climate goals,” La Camera said in a statement.

“Today, governments are facing multiple challenges of energy security, economic recovery and the affordability of energy bills for households and businesses. Many answers lie in the accelerated transition. But it’s a political choice to put policies in place that comply with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Agenda. Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure will only lock-in uneconomic practices, perpetuate existing risks and increase the threats of climate change,” La Camera added.

Renewable energy advocates have called mounting gas prices an additional incentive to hasten the transition.

“This conflict [in Ukraine] has made it clear to us that we should double down and triple down on the transition, and to make it broader, bigger and faster,” Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s energy envoy, said earlier this month at the CERAWeek energy conference.   

Tags Climate change Electric vehicles Energy transition International Renewable Energy Agency Renewable energy

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