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Renewable energy surge of 50% driven by China, IEA says

A rapid surge in the rollout of renewable energy last year has put the world within reaching distance of a goal to triple global capacity by 2030, the International Energy Agency said, after China drove a 50 per cent increase.

But the UN-agreed target as part of a package of measures remains far off what is required to limit global warming to 1.5C since pre-industrial times, the IEA has previously warned.

It calculated that the recent UN climate summit agreement would reduce the energy-related emissions gap between the current trajectory and a 1.5C increase by only about a third by 2030, in a report released at COP28 in Dubai.

Almost 200 countries agreed last month to triple renewable capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts by 2030 and double the average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements to 4 per cent until 2030, as well as to reduce methane emissions, in an effort to curb global warming.

In its latest report this week, the IEA found that the 50 per cent increase in renewable energy capacity to almost 510GW in 2023, the fastest growth rate in two decades, was not far off track in fulfilling the 2030 target for renewable energy.

It said that under current market conditions and existing policies capacity would reach 7,300GW by 2028. That pace of growth would see global capacity accelerating 2.5 times by 2030 from current levels.

IEA executive director Fatih Birol told the Financial Times the progress was “encouraging.” “But what I would like to see is growth from emerging and developing countries, especially in Africa, but also in Latin America and other Asian countries.”

Renewable capacity increases were at record highs in Europe, the US and Brazil, but the main driver remained growth in China, which installed as much solar photovoltaics as the whole world did in 2022.

China more than doubled solar capacity in 2023, and wind power capacity rose by 66 per cent from a year earlier, the IEA estimated.

Development of renewable energy is accelerating across the world as countries strive to replace their reliance on fossil fuels, the report shows, but progress is uneven with many emerging economies struggling to finance clean-energy projects.

“There is a need for international financial institutions to support clean- energy projects in developing and emerging countries,” Birol said, adding that mobilising funding for the climate transition in developing countries was one of the “most important missing pieces” from COP28.

The IEA has said that fossil fuel demand must fall by a quarter by the end of this decade for the world to successfully limit global warming to 1.5C, the ideal goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The global temperature rise is already at least 1.1C, the UN body of scientists has found, and the world experienced its hottest year on record in 2023.

Dave Jones, a programme director at energy think-tank Ember, said the “entirely achievable” goal of tripling of renewables by 2030 showed that green energy was becoming an existential threat to the fossil fuel industry.

“We are increasingly on track not only for a peaking of fossil fuel use this decade, but for sizeable falls in fossil fuel use,” he said. “This is at odds with the huge investment planned by the oil and gas industry . . which is creating a chasm between outlook for demand and the outlook for supply.”