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Renewables Must Scale Up Six-Fold to Hit Paris Targets, But Cost Savings Are Massive: IRENA

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Renewable energy deployment must scale up six-fold to hit the targets in the Paris agreement—but that outcome is still possible, and would lead to dramatic growth in the global economy and human welfare, according to a report released last week by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Moreover, nearly three-quarters of the multiple trillions of dollars required to get the job done have already been committed, the report indicates.

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Cumulative energy system investment would need to be increased by 30% through to 2050 in favour of supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency—from around US$93 trillion under current and planned policies, up to $120 trillion,” CleanTechnica reports. “This investment figure also requires $18 trillion be directed towards power grids and energy flexibility—double that of current and planned policies.”

The plan would cost $1.7 trillion per year by 2050, EcoWatch notes [2], while delivering $6 trillion in environmental and health care savings.

IRENA released Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050 [3] last week at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, hosted by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. “If we are to decarbonize global energy fast enough to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, renewables must account for at least two-thirds of total energy by 2050,” said Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. But that shift, with renewables and energy efficiency supplying more than 90% of the energy-related carbon reductions required under the Paris deal, “will not only support climate objectives,” he added. “It will support positive social and economic outcomes all over the world, lifting millions out of energy poverty, increasing energy independence, and stimulating sustainable job growth.”

An IRENA chart shows renewable energy jobs growing from an estimated 9.83 million in 2016, to 14.9 million in 2050 on the industry’s current trajectory, to 28.84 million in 2050 under a decarbonization pathway—enough to offset the positions lost in a declining fossil sector. “Of course, there is not necessarily a direct one-to-one translation from the fossil fuel industry to a renewable energy job,” CleanTechnica notes. “But if governments around the world and companies make it a priority, job transition and re-education can mitigate some of the fossil fuel job losses.

Still, EcoWatch points to the challenging growth curve built into the IRENA scenario. “Renewable energy would have to account for two-thirds of global energy consumption by 2050; in 2015, it accounted for 18%,” the online publication states. “Renewable energy’s share in the power sector would have to rise from one-quarter to 85% in the same time period, and global energy demand would have to fall by two-thirds by 2050, as well.”