Doubling Renewable Energy will Save Money & Avoid Climate Catastrophe, says IRENA

IRENA | 5 Jun 2014

A 36% renewable energy in the global energy mix is possible, affordable and helps mitigate climate change

The world faces an important energy choice, according to a new report launched by the International Renewable Energy Agency in New York today. “REmap 2030” says that scaling-up renewable energy to 36% of the world’s total final energy consumption by 2030 is possible, affordable and will keep the world on a trajectory consistent with a CO2 level of 450 ppm, the widely accepted threshold to limit global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

The report demonstrates that the investment cost for this global expansion of renewable energy is offset by savings of up to $740 billion per year on costs associated with pollution from fossil fuels.

Image courtesy of IRENA
Image courtesy of IRENA

The central policy question is this: What energy sources do we want to invest in?

Our data shows that renewable energy can help avert catastrophic climate change and save the world money, if all costs are considered,” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA, in New York.

In answering this question, ‘REmap 2030’ makes a clear case for renewables. It shows the transition is affordable based on existing technologies, and that the benefits go well beyond the positive climate impact.

Countries today face a clear choice for a sustainable energy future.

Doubling renewable energy to 36% of global energy consumption will reduce the global demand for oil and gas by approximately 15% and for coal by 26%, cutting energy-related pollution and adverse health effects as well as increasing energy security for countries dependent on energy imports. It would also create a net gain of nearly one million jobs by 2030.

Image courtesy of IRENA
Image courtesy of IRENA

We can double the renewable energy share in the global energy mix, but we are not on that path now.

To realize the world’s renewable energy potential, all governments need to step up their efforts. We need to act now. — Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre, added.

IRENA recommends focusing on five key areas:

planning realistic but ambitious transition pathways; creating enabling business environments; managing knowledge of technology options and their deployment; ensuring smooth integration of renewables into the existing infrastructure; and unleashing innovation.

“REmap 2030” builds on the analysis of the energy requirements in 26 countries that account for 75% of global total final energy consumption. IRENA collaborated with countries and research institutions in the development of the report, which derives its objective from the United Nations Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. The report was launched today at the SE4ALL Forum at the United Nations Headquarters.

To download the full report, factsheets and other materials visit

Seven Ways IRENA Advances Renewable Energy Worldwide

by Zachary Shahan

We’ve posted a number of stories about the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) activities over the past couple of years. Numerous times, in the comments, people have raised questions about how much IRENA is actually doing and whether or not it is useful. I love IRENA, and following a couple of announcements at the World Future Energy Summit, I had the idea to go ahead and run down a list of several things IRENA is doing that really are making a difference or will make a difference.

Before jumping into that list, however, I’ll start with a little background and context. IRENA is very, very young. Its founding conference was January 2009 (in Bonn, Germany), but it wasn’t officially established until April 2011 (in Abu Dhabi, the UAE).

IRENA already has 124 members (123 nations and the European Union). It also has another 43 signatories. Creating programs and projects with that many participating nations is of course going to result in some sluggishness, but that breadth of membership also allows for tremendous, powerful action.

Not even three years after its official establishment, IRENA has a lot to show for its name, and what it has created are the building blocks of very real and influential change. Here are very quick summaries of 7 IRENA highlights:

How Renewable Energy can offset fossil fuels
How Renewable Energy can offset fossil fuels

1. REmap 2030. I just wrote about this the other day, so I hope you all read that REmap 2030 article. The quick summary of the REmap 2030 report is that it provides a realistic but fairly ambitious scenario for doubling renewable energy share in the global energy mix by 2030. Furthermore, it will include 26 country-specific reports outlining how particular countries can achieve their share of this significant growth. These roadmaps are important because they will inspire and support the creation of actual, world-changing energy policies.

See Video #1 here:

2. IRENA/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) Project Facility. This is again something that was unveiled in just the past week which I covered. In total, this is a 7-year, $350 million concessional loan program that enables innovative renewable energy projects in developing countries that can make a significant difference themselves while also providing an example for others to follow. At the press conference I attended in Abu Dhabi, it was noted that the first round of financing will deliver ~$41 million for 6 renewable energy projects on 6 continents, while private financing will raise the total investment to over $80 million.

The next round of funding is now open for applications.

Cost of diesel oil-fired electricity production
Cost of diesel oil-fired electricity production

3. IRENA Costing Alliance Website. Providing genuine utility to businesses, governments, investors, and nonprofits around the world, IRENA recently launched a websites focused solely on renewable energy & electric vehicle costs that it aims to make into your “one-stop shop” for any renewable energy cost data. The website needs to be include much more information to genuinely become that, but even at launch it provided a great number of renewable energy cost facts, charts, and graphs that I found very interesting and useful. I’m sure I’m not the only one. This — along with a couple of other sites — is already at the top of my list for renewable energy cost facts and graphics.

4. Renewables Readiness Assessments. We covered these briefly about one year ago. Seemingly something like a precursor to REmap 2030, Renewables Readiness Assessments “offer a country-led approach to identify priority actions to boost renewable energy deployment, with buy-in from all key stakeholders.” If such assessments aren’t useful, I’m not sure what is!

5. Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network. Policy is a critical matter in all energy industries — renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuels. To deny that is to deny reality. With renewable energy still a rather young industry, there is much to be learned and shared regarding effective renewable energy policies. Policy can be a very complicated matter, and this IRENA program, which connects renewable energy experts and businesspeople with policymakers around the world, offers incalculable benefits for the global renewable energy revolution.

6. IRENA’s Knowledge, Policy and Finance Center is an overarching IRENA arm. KPFC “has established a global repository of renewable energy knowledge and serves as a center of excellence for renewable energy and finance issues,” IRENA writes. “Through this function, IRENA will provide a knowledge gateway for  statistics on costs, employment, resource potential and status of deployment, along with research and information on policies, investment frameworks and socio-economic and environmental impact for renewable energy technologies.”

See video #2 here:

7. IRENA’s Global Renewable Energy Atlas is probably one of the agency’s oldest projects. I remember writing about it back in May 2012. It is the largest effort worldwide to assess the energy potential of different renewable resources all around the world is a never-ending project. If you haven’t checked it out, you should go have a look. The atlas includes a bounty of renewable energy resource maps, which have been provided by some of the world’s leading research institutes. “The Global Atlas aims to become the first reference point for renewable resource data and a catalyst for planning, policy development and investment in emerging and new renewable energy markets.” This is a tremendous resource for policymakers as well as renewable energy companies looking to serve emerging markets.

I think I’ve shown pretty clearly why I love IRENA so much, and have given a sense of how useful the agency has become in just a few years of existence. The global agency is working on other projects not listed above, including some projects not yet officially announced. I’m sure it won’t be too long before we have another big IRENA story to cover.

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This article, 7 Things IRENA Is Doing To Advance Renewable Energy, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author


Zachary ShahanZachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

REmap 2030: Roadmap to Double Renewable Energy Share by 2030

by Zachary Shahan.

IRENA has just launched REmap 2030, a roadmap showing how the world can double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, and triple the share of “modern renewables.” Overall, REmap 2030 sees modern renewables quadrupling in absolute terms by 2030, a share of at least 30% in total final energy consumption.

The roadmap focuses on 26 countries, and will eventually include individual reports for each country, which will be published later in the year. I had the opportunity to discuss the report with Dolf Gielen, Director of the IRENA Innovation & Technology Centre, just prior to the unveiling.

Below are some of the 1) interesting matters I pulled out of the summary of findings, 2) questions the report generated for me, and 3) Dolf’s responses.

One of the most surprising findings from the project, Dolf noted, was how little it would cost to achieve this doubling of renewable energy. And, actually, if you take external costs into account (health costs, climate costs, etc), doubling the renewable energy share is actually cheaper than business as usual. These low costs allow for a great increase in renewable energy supply that doesn’t hurt the economy but actually helps it!

Projections vs. Projections

REmap 2030
REmap 2030

It’s also worth noting that REmap 2030 is not a presentation of maximum potential renewable energy growth, but rather something aimed at presenting realistic potential as it stands today, while clearly acknowledging that there are ways to make the future even cleaner than in the REmap 2030 scenario. In fact, the report shows that early retirement of fossil fuel plants, a greater model shift in transportation (towards bicycling, walking, and mass transit), greater electrification (which I discuss a bit below), industry relocation, and breakthroughs in cleantech could lead to ~50% renewable energy share by 2030. Each of these improvements are genuine possibilities, and trends we have clearly seen in just the past two or three years.

One chart that stood out to me in the summary report was one that showed REmap 2030 renewable energy share for total final energy consumption was about halfway between what was projected in low-end scenarios and high-end scenarios (see below). I asked Dolf why the REmap 2030 scenario differed so much from the Greenpeace & WWF ones, and he explained that the amount of renewable energy use is comparable to most other ambitious scenarios, and with greater energy efficiency in REmap 2030 the renewable share can increase further. Renewable energy use was actually very comparable in the three scenarios.

renewable energy 2030 projections
Renewable energy 2030 projections

Transportation Projections

Of course, I was also curious about the roadmap’s projections for electric vehicle growth. The projection was that only ~10% of passenger fleet transportation would be electric vehicles in 2030, which is more than some people project, but I still think is a pessimistic projection. In the end, I am in a certain camp of people who think that electrification of transport will be very disruptive and will see explosive growth. I don’t think 10% electrification is a bad projection, and it is in line with most projections from market research firms and energy agencies, but I do think it is an underestimate. Nonetheless, even achieving 10% of the passenger vehicle market would be a tremendous change from today. It would mean going from ~0.2 million EVs in 2012 to ~160 million EVs in 2030. Dolf also mentioned that this would imply sales of at least 10 million EVs per year between today and 2030.

Digging in a tiny bit, I asked about which of the 26 countries under study would be seeing the greatest electrification of transportation. Dolf noted China and France as two examples.

On another side of the transportation pie, REmap 2030 saw fairly strong growth in the use of cellulosic biofuels. Dolf noted one startup that has created a financially attractive cellulosic biofuel plant that it is looking to replicate in multiple locations. The startup is a subsidiary of Solazyme, a company which has been working in this field for several years.

Overall, biofuels are projected to grow 6 times over, from 105 billion liters in 2012 to 650 billion liters in 2030.

Less Government Support Than Fossil Fuels

REmap 2030 does project that this doubling of renewable energy will come with a cost if you only look at the price of energy (that is, if you ignore the health and climate costs of fossil fuels). However, it is not a great deal. “By 2030, renewable subsidies rise to USD 238 billion with the REmap Options fully deployed — less than half of the USD 544 billion in global subsidies for fossil fuels in 2012.” In other words, after over a century of tremendous fossil fuel subsidies, fossil fuel industries are still getting about twice as much money from governments in the way of subsidies (annually) than renewable energy would be granted according to the REmap 2030 projection. Imagine if we gave renewables as much as fossil fuels have been getting!

By the way, Dolf also noted that that a CO2 price of USD 28 per tonne would eliminated the need for subsidies.

Net Economic Benefit From Doubling Renewable Energy

Again, if you count health, climate, and other social costs, doubling renewable energy’s share of the global energy mix will have a net economic benefit. “The doubling of renewables can reduce emissions by 8.6 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2030, enough (along with the lower emissions enabled by energy efficiency) to keep us on a trajectory to limit global warming by more than two degrees Celsius. These mitigation benefits range from USD 3-12 per GJ, and the average health benefits due to reduce air pollution range from USD 1.9-4.6 per GJ. In the most conservative estimate, the external benefits thus amount to USD 4.9 per GJ, nearly twice the additional cost of USD 2.5 per GJ. A total of 900,000 net jobs will also be created globally.” ~3.5 million direct renewable energy jobs would be created.

Renewable Energy Growth Across All 4 Sectors
REmap sectors
REmap sectors

Renewable energy will grow to a different degree in different sectors. According to the REmap 2030 projection, 40% of the total global renewable energy use would be in power generation, while the other 60% would be in the building, transport, and industry sectors. The share of renewables within each of these sectors would be as follows (end-use sectors excluding the consumption of renewable power):

  • Power — 44%
  • Buildings — 35%
  • Industry — 19%
  • Transport — 15%

Growth By Renewable Energy Technology

REmap renewables 2010
REmap renewables 2010

REmap 2030 renewable energy split
REmap 2030 renewable energy split

So, you are probably now curious, how much will solar PV grow under REmap 2030? How much will wind power grow? How much will solar thermal grow? Here are some quick findings from REmap 2030 (change is from 2012 to 2030):

  • Hydropower — 60% growth, from 1000 GW to 1600 GW
  • Wind Power — 5-fold growth, from 280 GW to 1640 GW
  • Solar PV — 12-fold growth, from 100 GW to 1250 GW
  • Solar Thermal — 10-fold growth, from 380 million square meters to 4,000 million square meters
  • Power from Biomass — 5-fold growth, from 83 GW to 400 GW
  • Biofuels — 6-fold growth, from 105 billion liters to 650 billion liters
  • Electric Vehicles — 800-fold growth, from 0.2 million EVs to 160 million EVs (10% of passenger car fleet)
RE growth projections
RE growth projections

What Will Be Displaced?

So, from which energy resource will renewable energy be getting its increased share? Coal is projected to be the main loser, declining by 26%. Natural gas and oil’s decline is estimated at 15%.

fossil fuel reductions 2030
Fossil fuel reductions 2030

Aside from country-by-country roadmaps, REmap 2030 includes roadmaps for 4 specific sectors — cities, electricity storage, global manufacturing, and grid integration. It will be interesting to dig into those once they are published.

Full disclosure: My trip to Abu Dhabi for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was provided courtesy of Masdar.

This article is republished from CleanTechnica:

About the Author

Zachary ShahanZachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.