Energy Transition

COP28: Here's how to triple renewable power capacity and double energy efficiency

The upcoming COP28 climate conference will call for a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.

The upcoming COP28 climate conference will call for a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. Image: Unsplash/Antonio Garcia

Ewan Thomson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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COP28

  • The upcoming COP28 climate conference will call for a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.
  • A new report from COP28, the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Global Renewables Alliance has several recommendations for how to achieve this.
  • The World Economic Forum is supporting energy efficiency measures through knowledge-sharing initiatives like its Net Zero Industrial Clusters.

In the run-up to COP28, the central message for policy-makers, governments, industry and broader society is clear: we must triple the amount of renewable energy available and double energy efficiency improvements by 2030.

2030 targets for renewable energy.
COP28 will aim to help find a way to triple renewable power and double energy efficiency this decade. Image: IRENA

“The world has already made great strides by expanding global renewable energy capacity and becoming more energy efficient, but progress so far has been too slow,” says COP28 President Delegate Sultan Al Jaber.

Gaining global consensus to support the target of tripling renewable capacity and doubling energy efficiency is the next step, and a new report from COP28, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Global Renewables Alliance urges the world to do this.

This is what it says needs to happen to accelerate progress.

Why we need to triple renewable energy capacity fast

“Now is the time to turbocharge solutions and meet the urgency of the moment with ambitious and determined action,” Al Jaber says.

But what specific areas do we need to focus on to increase renewable capacity and energy efficiency?

Key performance indicators for achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario.
Key indicators on the pathway to net zero emissions. Image: IRENA

The above chart shows the latest data on global installed renewable power generation, and the 2030 target.

Average renewable energy capacity additions would need to be 1,000GW a year to hit the 2030 goal – this is far above the 292GW added in 2022.

To achieve this, solar and wind capacity will need to surge, as should energy storage capacity. And all this needs to happen “as fast as possible, and as early as possible”, the report says.

A fair and fast transition

While speed is key, the report also highlights that the energy transition should be fair for everyone around the world, and provide benefits for all.

This is particularly true for developing countries, which will need more energy to support their increasing populations and growing economies.

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To triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, the report recommends policies that can enable a rapid expansion of wind power, solar power, hydropower and geothermal power, which would in turn facilitate the scaling up of long-term energy storage and green hydrogen.

These actions, says Global Renewables Alliance CEO Bruce Douglas, will help ensure that “energy systems are not just clean, but secure and resilient”.

Cheaper renewable energy

A significant upside to the challenge of accelerating progress comes in the form of an improved economic case for renewables: many are already cheaper than fossil fuels, and they’re getting even cheaper.

Between 2010 and 2022, the cost of electricity generated by onshore wind swung from being 95% more expensive than the cheapest fossil fuel to being 52% lower.

Graph showing the falling costs of solar and wind power.
How solar and wind power costs have fallen in the past decade. Image: IRENA

And solar photovoltaic power has experienced an even more rapid drop in cost – it was around eight times more expensive than the cheapest fossil fuel-powered electricity in 2010, but by 2022 had become nearly a third cheaper than fossil fuels.

But renewables offer more than cost and environmental benefits – reduced exposure to fossil fuel imports increases energy security and can cut energy price volatility, the report says. “As 2022 showed, the indirect economic benefits of this enhanced energy security can be significant; yet they are typically not valued in current policy,” it adds.

How to double energy efficiency

Key performance indicators for doubling energy efficiency.
Key indicators in transport and buildings for doubling energy efficiency by 2030. Image: IRENA

Energy efficiency represents one of the easiest ways to cut non-renewable energy usage. And by improving energy efficiency, less renewable energy capacity will also be needed in future, meaning fewer resources will be used up in building new renewable energy projects.

Energy efficiency is so important that International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol describes it as the world’s “first fuel”.

Heat pumps, more efficient appliances, and electric vehicles are crucial for reducing carbon emissions in the building and transportation sectors. These technological advancements, along with smart electrification strategies and decentralized energy deployment are key to boosting our energy efficiency, the report says.

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum facilitating the transition to clean energy?

Regulation and policies will also be required to drive progress, the report says. This includes new building codes, higher energy efficiency standards for appliances, as well as fiscal and financial incentives, coupled with public awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of increasing energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is also a key focus for World Economic Forum’s Head of the Centre for Energy and Materials, Roberto Bocca, who says reducing energy intensity requires multiple initiatives to work holistically, but that many are already in place. The next steps are rolling out and scaling up. Knowledge-sharing initiatives like Net Zero Industrial Clusters – launched by the Forum in collaboration with Accenture and the Electric Power Research Institute – will also be central to enabling rapid progress.

The policies required to reach the two key targets

The report outlines a set of policies that should help achieve the ambitious targets of tripling renewables capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements:

  • Ensure planning, timelines and assessments of investment needs for energy grids are aligned with long-term renewable energy targets.
  • Mobilize funds for long-term energy grid investment; channel donor finance to building capacity and infrastructure for integrating renewables; and streamline permitting procedures for new grid infrastructure and upgrades.
  • Develop modernized ways of running resilient grid systems using digitalization, smart applications for demand-side management and connections with neighbouring grid systems.
Key enablers to triple renewable power and double energy efficiency.
Collaboration, new policies and new ways to operate are at the heart of boosting renewables and energy efficiency. Image: IRENA

Now leaders must come together and find ways to reach these targets.

“It is essential that global leaders convening at COP28 demonstrate the collective will to set a new pace for action this decade by committing to these targets,” the report concludes. “This is a critical step in a critical decade to keep the 1.5°C target within reach.”

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