Jun 11, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Renewable energy had a big 2019, but still isn't meeting long-term Paris agreement goals

Photovoltaic power station operated by State Power Investment Corporation on June 3 in Shanxi Province, China.
Photovoltaic power station operated by State Power Investment Corporation on June 3 in Shanxi Province, China. Photo:Shi Gangze/VCG via Getty Images

Renewables are attracting substantial investment and developers are getting more bang for the buck, but none of it is enough to be consistent with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, per a data-rich new report from the Frankfurt School, the UN and BloombergNEF.

The big picture: Last year saw 184 gigawatts of new capacity added worldwide (excluding large hydro projects) — the most ever — with solar leading the way. The 12% growth came even though total investment was flat, a sign of continued cost declines for wind and solar technologies.

Threat level: The pandemic is creating near-term headwinds for growth.

Yes, but: Even putting the pandemic problems aside, the analysis says the long-term investment picture is not robust enough. From the report...

"Governments and companies around the world have committed to adding some 826 gigawatts of new non-hydro renewable power capacity in the decade to 2030, at a likely cost of around $1 trillion."
"Those commitments fall far short of what would be needed to limit world temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius. They also look modest compared to the $2.7 trillion invested during the 2010-2019 decade."

What's next: Per the authors, what should be next is for governments to stitch low-carbon energy initiatives into their pandemic response plans.

  • "If governments take advantage of the ever-falling price tag of renewables to put clean energy at the heart of COVID-19 economic recovery, instead of subsidizing the recovery of fossil-fuel industries, they can take a big step towards clean energy and a healthy natural world," it states.

Go deeper: Renewable energy group declares cost "turning point"

Go deeper