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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Disentangling the 2030 global renewable energy target


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, renewable energy, solar cook-stove, G20, GCF etc
  • Mains GS Paper III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment etc


  • The presidency of the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Dubai
  • It has called for agreement on a global target of tripling renewable energy capacity from current levels by 2030




Renewable energy:

  • They are natural and self-replenishing, and usually have a low- or zero-carbon footprint.
  • Examples of renewable energy sources:
    • Wind power
    • Solar power
    • Bioenergy (organic matter burned as a fuel)
    • Hydroelectric including tidal energy.


Renewable energy current status:

  • Global installed capacity of renewable energy sources (RES)(2021)for electricity generation: It was 3026 GigaWatts (GW), or 39% of the total capacity from all sources.
    • In total electricity generation the contribution by RES was only 28%.
  • More than half the RE generation was from hydropower, while solar (13%) and wind (23%).
    • It accounted for about 36% of RE generation, that is 10% of generation from all sources.


Target of Tripling RE capacity by 2030:

  • It implies a target of about 9000 GW, which is more than the total installed capacity from all sources in 2021
    • Adding about 6000 GW of RE capacity between 2022 and 2030.
  • Most of this capacity is expected to come from solar and wind
  • Capacity utilization factor of 25% for solar and wind combined: It implies the generation of about 13,000 TWh of electricity from RES
  • If growth in global electricity demand is at the pre-COVID-19 decade average of 2.6%: The target of tripling RE capacity implies 38% of total global electricity production from RES.


Regionally differentiated energy needs:

  • Electricity demand across countries is highly differentiated
  • The rates of growth vary for countries at different stages of development.
  • Electricity consumption between 2010 and 2019 in China and India grew annually at 6(six point six)% and 6.3(six point three)%, respectively
    • A 3(zero point three)% decline in the European Union (EU) and a minimal 0.12(zero point one two)% growth in the United States.
  • Any substantial RE addition in the EU and the U.S. must come from an accelerated phaseout of their fossil fuel use by 2030.
  • US and EU: Only 21% of the electricity in the U.S. and 37% in the EU comes from RES (including hydro and biomass).


How different countries will fulfill Energy demands?

  • US: If the U.S. does not phase out its existing fossil fuel capacity
    • It will need only about 26 GW of new RE capacity to meet additional demand,
    • Its share of the tripling target of an additional 6000 GW by 2030, would be only a measly 4(zero point four)%.
  • India would need about 717 GW of RE capacity to meet additional demand
    • Its share of the tripling target would be 12%.
  • If all the fossil fuel-based electricity production of the U.S. and the EU is phased out: They would need to add about 1565 GW and 538 GW of additional RE capacity, respectively
  • with a full phase-out of fossil fuel-based capacity: S. and the EU would account for more than a third of the new capacity
    • It will allow developing countries a less onerous transition in the energy sector.


International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report:

  • It calls for “total renewable power capacity to more than triple by 2030, compared to 2022 levels, to over 11 TW globally”.
  • IRENA’s scenario, underlying the proposed COP28 target, is very close to the first, highly inequitable scenario.
  • IRENA report: Most of the non-RE capacity to be added by 2030 is in developing regions.
  • By 2030, 80% of power generation capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa is to be from RE sources, as compared to only 70% for the EU.
  • The EU and Sub-Saharan Africa are projected to add about the same amount of RE capacity by 2050
    • The non-RE capacity in the EU continues to be more than four times that of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • India: India needs to exceed even the very ambitious 500 GW mark by 2030.


Issues with the report:

  • Equity: Lack of equity apart
  • Such absolute projections of installed capacity suffer from the fundamental problem of divorcing capacity addition from growth in energy demand.
  • IRENA itself recognises that relative targets are inherently less risky as they are less dependent on demand growth matching expectations.
  • The entire burden is on developing countries.
  • The enormous increase in RE capacity is not possible without matching non-RE capacity for stability of supply
    • The availability of viable storage options that are as yet nowhere near the scale envisaged by such ambitious targets.
  • Finding the resources to build national grids adequate for their development needs at such levels of scaling up of RE capacity
    • It will pose additional challenges, given the inability to reach even the minimal annual target of $100 billion of climate finance covering all sectors.



Way Forward

  • When the Prime Minister announced at COP26 that India would increase its ambition to 500GW from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030
    • S. President made no such promise or declared any renewable energy target.
    • Apart from a general announcement (not committed under the Paris Agreement) to decarbonise the energy sector by 2035.
    • The EU too has only a relative target, though an ambitious sounding goal of 40% of final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030, but certainly not absolute.
  • For both the U.S. and the EU: The targets are essentially market signals, which the governments will promote, but are not guaranteed by government intervention as in the developing countries.
  • Developing countries at COP28, especially India, should consider the tripling global RE capacity target only if the North commits to absolute targets domestically,
    • that are equitable and commensurate with their responsibility
    • An update of their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.



Explain the purpose of the Green Grid Initiative launched at the World Leaders Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, 2021. When was this idea first floated in the International Solar Alliance (ISA)?(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)