Renewables Boom, But Uneven Progress Threatens Global Climate Goals, IRENA Warns

Record Capacity Growth Driven by Asia, Developing Countries Lag Behind

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported a surge in renewable energy deployment in 2023, reaching a record high of 3,870 Gigawatts (GW) of global capacity. However, the report also highlights a concerning trend: uneven distribution of this growth, raising doubts about achieving the ambitious goal of tripling renewable energy by 2030.

While renewables accounted for a staggering 86% of new capacity additions, Asia dominated the expansion with a 69% share (326 GW). China, the undisputed leader, saw a remarkable 63% increase in its capacity, reaching 297.6 GW. This dominance creates a significant gap with developing regions like Africa, whose total capacity remains a modest 62 GW despite a 4.6% increase.

“This is a wake-up call,” stressed IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Renewables are the key to achieving the Paris Agreement goals, but progress is far from sufficient. We need to add 7.2 TW of renewable power in just seven years – a monumental task that requires immediate course correction.”

La Camera emphasizes the urgent need for policy interventions and international collaboration to address structural barriers and create local value in developing economies. The current trend of concentrated growth, both geographically and technologically, risks widening the “decarbonization divide” and jeopardizing the tripling target.

Solar and wind power’s growing competitiveness against fossil fuels emerged as key drivers for China’s renewable boom. Similar trends are seen in the EU, where heightened energy security concerns and supportive policies fueled rapid growth. Other regions like the Middle East and Oceania also witnessed significant expansion.

The report underscores a critical disparity – solar energy dominated growth, accounting for 73% (reaching 1,419 GW) of new renewable capacity, followed by wind power at 24%. Bioenergy and geothermal energy saw slower growth, while off-grid electricity, primarily driven by solar, expanded in regions outside developed economies.

IRENA’s 1.5°C Scenario outlines a roadmap for tripling renewable capacity by 2030. It emphasizes the need for massive scaling-up of financing, strong international collaboration, and prioritizing investments in developing countries. Strengthening institutions, policies, and skills development are also crucial along this pathway.

The current record-breaking year for renewables is a positive step, but a significant acceleration across the globe, particularly in developing nations, is needed to meet ambitious climate targets and ensure a just and equitable energy transition.