Accelerating the global energy transformation

90% of the energy-related emissions reduction can be achieved through accelerated uptake of renewables and energy efficiency combined.

Two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from the production and use of energy. This puts the energy sector at the core of efforts to tackle climate change.

The energy sector needs a total overhaul with a transformation from fossil-based to low-carbon energy production by 2050. Already today, the global energy landscape is witnessing a rapid and wide-ranging change driven by an unprecedented growth of renewables due to falling costs and advances in technology.

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A global energy system powered by renewable sources is key for climate action.


Falling costs are encouraging the uptake of renewable energy

The rise of renewable energy is driven by dramatically falling renewable energy costs across the technology spectrum.

Since 2009, solar PV module costs have fallen by more than 80%. The power generated by solar PV declined by 73 per cent between 2010 and 2017.

Onshore wind costs have also fallen sharply. The global weighted average cost of electricity from onshore wind fell by 22% between 2010 and 2017, making it one of the most competitive sources of electricity available today.

The cost declines do not end there. By 2020, the average cost of power generation from all commercially available renewable energy technologies will be competitive with fossil fuels.

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Renewable energy is progressing in power generation

The global energy transformation is underway. Most notably, the share of power generation from renewable energy has advanced tremendously in recent years. Today, renewables account for more than a quarter of global power generation.

In 2017 the world installed 168 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity – more than the total installed electricity capacity of Brazil – and a record in new capacity terms.

More and more people have electricity access thanks to renewables

Off-grid renewable energy plays a central role in achieving universal energy access and sustainable development.

An estimated 133 million people are already benefiting from such decentralised energy solutions – with millions more potentially gaining energy access – further driving job creation and economic growth for people in rural communities across the world.

For the first time the population without access to electricity has fallen below 1 billion.

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Renewables play a growing role in national policies

Accelerating the deployment of renewable energy requires policies and market designs that contribute to creating an enabling environment for investment and development.

Under climate policies, renewables are increasingly recognised as a mitigation and adaptation tool. Renewable energy targets and acknowledgements feature in nearly three quarters of the 150 Nationally Determined Contributions* (NDCs) formally submitted by countries so far.

Energy policies are even more ambitious. Today, more than 50 countries target 100% renewables-based power generation.

* NDCs are national climate contributions under the UN Paris Climate Agreement

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Innovation in renewable technology continues to advance

Renewable energy patents have grown at a rate above 12% per year since 1995, well above the average rates for other technology sectors. Between 2000 and 2016, more than 600 000 renewables-related patents were filed globally, with the solar sector seeing the most progress.

Digitalisation, including artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and blockchain, is creating new opportunities to make the energy transformation smarter and faster. And breakthrough technologies, such as floating off-shore wind together with the falling cost of utility-scale battery storage technology, are creating new opportunities for renewable energy deployment.

A global energy transformation brings vast socio-economic benefits

Ramping up renewables in the global energy system to two-thirds by 2050 would make the world climate-safer whilst growing the world economy by one per cent.

Benefits of energy transformation are being felt today. Renewables are boosting global job creation.

In 2017, the industry created more than 500,000 new jobs globally. A total of 10.3 million people are now employed in the sector - surpassing the 10 million figure for the first time.

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More needs to be done.
Renewables need to be scaled up by a factor of six to achieve climate goals.

Heat and transport have to be rapidly decarbonised.

Industry, transport and the building sectors need to use more renewable energy. Electrification is a key approach. By 2050, the share of electricity consumed in end-use sectors needs to grow from around 20% today to 45% by 2050. This will support the integration of higher shares of renewable energy in power systems.

Beyond renewable electricity, renewable fuels such as biomass, together with solar thermal and geothermal sources of renewable energy can make a significant contribution to decarbonising end-use sectors.

Changing breakdown of energy sector CO2 emissions with accelerated uptake of renewables

Additional investment of USD 27 trillion is required by 2050

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  • Private
  • Public

Global investment in renewable energy has increased significantly over the last decade. Last year, new investment in clean energy reached 333.5 billion USD globally.

The energy transition is technically feasible and economically beneficial but requires substantial additional investment of up to USD 27 trillion between now and 2050.

Private sector’s engagement is critical. Private sources provide the bulk of renewable energy investment globally – over 90% in 2016.

But public finance can play a key enabling role – covering early-stage project risk and getting new markets to maturity.

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Investment in sustainable energy pays off in benefits and welfare gains

Shifting the global energy system to renewables would grow the world economy by one per cent, translating into a cumulative gain of more than USD 52 trillion by 2050.

Cost-savings from reduced air pollution, better health and lower environmental damage will far outweigh the cost of energy system transformation and renewable energy adoption.

Savings in these three areas alone will average USD 6 trillion annually by 2050 - an amount over three times larger than the additional cost of decarbonisation.

This massive transformation would result in a net gain of over 11 million jobs in the energy sector by 2050 to reaching 29 million jobs.

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Sustainable energy is crucial to address climate change – the most pressing challenge of our age.

The world’s future depends on the energy decisions we make today.