Renewables made up half of net electricity capacity added last year
While renewables now account for more than 50% of net capacity additions and are expected by the IEA to reach around 60% by 2021, they still provide a small share of the world’s electricity. Renewable energy is a key way to meet targets under the Paris agreement, which comes into force in November.
But even with the huge growth expected in coming years, the IEA said it will not be sufficient to meet the Paris deal’s target of keeping temperatures below 2C, the threshold for dangerous warming. “No, it’s by far not enough [the trajectory of growth],”
The agency painted a gloomy picture of solar and onshore wind’s prospects in the UK, echoing recent warnings from other respected energy authorities. “The policy landscape for renewables has become more challenging since the 2015 general election,” the report said.
Since coming to power, the Conservatives have drastically cut or ended subsidies for wind and solar power, begun the privatisation of the green bank which supports clean energy, and enthusiastically backed fracking for shale gas and new nuclear. “While government support for new gas and nuclear capacity is evident, recent policy changes indicate that the role envisioned for renewables is uncertain,” the IEA said.
“There is need in the UK to invest in stronger renewable policies,” said Birol. “The potential is huge compared to what we are expecting.”
The agency’s chief said that contrary to what renewable energy critics argued, the biggest threat to the technologies was not their intermittent nature but the intermittency of governments’ support.
“The issue is not the predictability of solar and wind, it is the predictability of government policies because investors need to see what their prospects are. This is the main challenge I see in the renewable energy sector.”
Imke Lubbeke, head of climate and energy at WWF’s European policy office, said: “The IEA report clearly shows that president [Jean-Claude] Juncker’s promise to make the EU ‘the world leader in renewables’ remains empty rhetoric. Instead, the European Union is losing its leadership role to the US and China.”