Clean energy is now officially ‘unstoppable’

Solar panels shading vehicles parked in a parking lot.
Photo by VCG via Getty Images

According to the latest forecast from the International Energy Agency, transport and electricity around the world will be much greener by 2030 than it is today. Imagine if there were 10 times more electric vehicles on the road. Renewable energy sources make up half of the world’s electricity mix. Solar panels alone generate more electricity worldwide than the entire US energy sector today.

That is the picture painted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in the World Energy Outlook it published today, and which is based on current governments’ energy policies. The IEA was founded to secure global energy supplies after the oil crisis of the 1970s. Strengthening energy systems now means bringing renewables online to prevent more extreme climate change – especially as climate-induced disasters such as heat waves and storms increasingly threaten power grids around the world.

“The transition to clean energy is taking place worldwide and cannot be stopped. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s only a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us,” IEA Director Fatih Birol said in a press release.

“It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how fast’”

With renewables now the cheapest energy source, solar and wind energy are loosening the grip of fossil fuels on the global economy. Demand for coal, oil and gas is expected to peak this decade, according to the IEA’s new Outlook. This is the first time the agency has predicted this outcome in reports assessing current policies. The IEA Outlook also shows that governments now plan to deploy around two-thirds more renewable energy by 2030 than this time last year, according to energy think tank Ember.

To clean up pollution from homes, buildings and transportation, everything from cars to heating and cooling systems must be electrified. The IEA now expects electric heat pumps to outperform fossil fuel boilers worldwide by the end of this decade. And it has already seen electric vehicle adoption accelerate, with electric vehicles making up one in five cars sold this year, up from one in 25 in 2020.

That’s all welcome news for policymakers trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The Paris Agreement commits nearly 200 countries to work together to limit global warming to about 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. It’s a goal that would prevent floods, heat waves, fires and other climate-related catastrophes from getting much worse.

And yet, despite all the progress made so far, the clean energy transition still needs to be accelerated to achieve that goal, the IEA report said. To be successful, the IEA says countries must triple renewable energy capacity globally and triple clean energy investment in developing economies.

For now, the world is still on track to reach a warming of about 2.4 degrees this century. And the report points to a potential abundance of fossil gas supplies, even if that goes against global climate goals. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked fears of gas shortages, the number of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects has surged, and could result in the equivalent of almost half of the current global total by 2030 LNG supply to additional capacity is added.

Meanwhile, world leaders will meet in Dubai in December for a United Nations climate summit, where a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels could be on the table. “Nations must come together to agree on a rapid, fair phase-out of fossil fuels, along with a massive ramp-up of renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Union of Concerned Scientists policy director and chief economist Rachel Cleetus said in an emailed statement .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *