This is an extract from a recent report titled “Renewable energy targets in 2022: A guide to design” by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Approximately 90 per cent of global electricity needs have to be supplied by renewables by 2050 – up from around 26 per cent in 2019 – to put the world on a climate-safe pathway. Renewable power targets are halfway met globally but they are concentrated in few regions and technologies. To analyse the level of ambition in renewable power targets currently in place, IRENA has undertaken an exercise to quantify them (currently active and expired) by country, and then aggregate them by region and by technology.

Aggregated quantified targets by region

The quantification exercise finds that the achievement of all renewable power targets set in national energy plans would result in 5.4 TW of renewable installed capacity by 2030. The majority is in Asia (particularly China and India), which has aggregated targets totalling 2.6 TW in 2030 (from an installed total of 1.5 TW in 2021). Europe and North America and Oceania together have targets to increase their renewable energy capacity by 78-80% compared to today’s levels, totalling to 1,261 GW and 908 GW by 2030 respectively.

MENA accounts for just 3% of global targets by 2030 (or 185 GW, up from installed capacity of 37 GW in 2021), despite the region’s high potential and unsatisfied need for reliable and secure energy in many countries. Finally, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for just 2.6 per cent of global targets by 2030, with a target capacity of 140 GW by 2030, up from around 43 GW already installed in 2021. Sustainable renewable energy is fundamental to Africa’s future, as it currently hosts 77% of the world’s population with no electricity access.

Countries in this region therefore have a strong imperative to harness their renewable energy potential, close the access deficit and boost the region’s welfare and economic development. The countries targeting the highest level of deployment are all part of the G20, making up 89 per cent of the global target. Finally, although LDCs and SIDS make up a small share of past renewable deployment, their aggregated targets total 86 GW and 13 GW respectively, both doubling their current renewable capacity stock.

Quantified targets by technology

Figure 2.8 shows the quantified targets by technology. The left pie chart shows the mix of different technologies should all countries reach their targets successfully, while the right-hand side shows the remaining targeted capacity over the 2022-2030 period, i.e. the difference between aggregate targeted capacity and current installed capacity.

As shown, the targets mostly aim to install solar PV, onshore wind and offshore wind by 2030 (right-hand side) corresponding to 2,187 GW, 1,352 GW and 213 GW respectively. The large shares of solar PV, onshore and offshore wind are expected, given the dramatic drop in the cost of these technologies – an 88%, 68% and 60% drop in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), respectively, between 2010 and 2021. Although the figure shows a relatively low percentage of offshore wind, many countries have recently committed to deploying volumes that were not necessarily included in those targets. For this exercise, even in the case where countries have implemented policy instruments aiming for a certain level of deployment, such as the announcement of an auction, the volume in question is not accounted for as it is not officially included as part of a target. But recently, a number of offshore wind targets have been announced, particularly in United States and in Europe, to help phase out fossil fuels and to reduce reliance on energy imports from the Russian Federation.

The United States has set a federal target of 30 GW offshore wind by 2030, while Germany and the United Kingdom have recently raised their offshore wind targets to install 80 GW by 2030 collectively (from a combined 60 GW previously). In addition, in May 2022 at the Offshore Wind Summit, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Netherlands made a joint pledge to increase the combined North Sea offshore wind capacity of the four countries to 150 GW by 2050.  Although relatively few countries have targets for additional hydropower capacity, many will continue to rely on hydropower as an important part of their electricity mix. This explains why it continues to make up a significant share of the aggregate target capacity by 2030.

Existing renewable electricity targets can be met, but are not sufficiently ambitious to meet climate goals

The world has made remarkable progress in deploying renewable energy capacity in the power sector, with global installed capacity growing from just above 750 GW in 2000 to over 3 TW in 2021. A large part of the deployment to date can be attributed targets, together with policy instruments and financial incentives that, among other things, have contributed to the cost-competitiveness of renewable energy technologies.

First of all, the graph shows that we are well on our way to achieving the targets set. But at the same time, it shows that the existing targets are not ambitious when compared to current deployment rates. For targets to be meaningful, they need to be more ambitious than the current trajectory.

To meet the targets set by 2030, totalling 5.4 TW, countries would be targeting an additional 2.3 TW by 2030, equivalent to average yearly additions of 259 GW over the next nine years. This is a slight increase compared to the average since the Paris Agreement in 2015 of 233 GW installed capacity a year, but below the annual installed capacity in the past two years. In 2020 and 2021, despite the complications that resulted from the pandemic and consequent supply chain disruptions, the world installed more than 260 GW each year.

Figure 2.11 shows the installed capacity by technology in 2021, the capacity reached if all targets are achieved by 2030, and what is needed to keep the world on track with the 1.5°C Scenario by 2030, by technology. Considerably higher targets would be needed for solar PV and onshore wind, which fall short of the needed capacity by 3 TW and 1.6 TW, respectively. CSP targets should be more than seven times higher, while those for geothermal need to almost quadruple, and offshore wind targets need to be nearly doubled.

Renewable energy targets in NDCs and national policies for SIDS

IRENA has quantified the renewable capacity contributions mentioned by the SIDS in their NDCs and national policy documents. The analysis finds that out of the 40 SIDS that have submitted an NDC to date, 32 have a quantifiable renewable energy target. Almost all of the SIDS with targets in their NDCs have focused them on the power sector (30), while only two have set specific targets in end uses such as transport and heating and cooling, and three have set their targets as a percentage of the whole energy mix. In the power sector, many SIDS have committed to 100 per cent renewables in their electricity mix by or before 2030 in their NDCs. Although climate is a major driver for renewables deployment in these countries, increased ambition is also driven by energy security, and other socio-economic benefits, which are adversely affected by the high cost of importing fossil fuels. However, these targets remain conditional on international support in the form of financing, technology transfer and technical assistance.

IRENA’s quantification of targets shows that as per the NDCs, in the power sector the SIDS have committed to reaching 11.5 GW of installed renewable capacity by 2030, up from 5.2 GW in 2021. The unconditional targets total 5.5 GW, while the conditional targets are estimated to be equivalent to 6 GW. This means substantial international support is needed in the form of financial and technical assistance, capacity building and technology transfer to help SIDS achieve their renewable energy targets. Based on all national targets as per national policy documents, laws, official strategies and plans, total renewable electricity capacity in SIDS would reach almost 13 GW by 2030, which is 1.5 GW higher than the target capacity in NDCs, including both conditional and unconditional targets. What this shows is that most of the targets set in NDCs remain aspirational and would only be reached with considerable support from the international community.

The complete report can be accessed here.