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IEA boosts its renewable energy forecast as costs fall

Reproduced from IEA’s Renewables 2019 report; Chart: Axios Visuals

The International Energy Agency's new five-year renewable energy forecast sees faster growth than last year's outlook, but warns that movement toward zero-carbon sources is too slow to confront global warming.

What they found: The agency forecasts that total global renewable power capacity, which was 2,502 gigawatts last year, will increase 50% by 2024, with solar accounting for over half the expansion.

  • "Overall, the forecast has been revised upwards by over 14% from [last year's report], owing to a more positive outlook for solar [photovoltaic] PV and on- and offshore wind."
  • The upward revision stems from "sustained cost reductions" and a generally better policy and regulatory environment.
  • IEA sees renewables — led by expanding solar and wind deployment — rising to meet 30% of global power demand in five years.

Why it matters: Expanded use of renewables in power and heating are important tools for fighting climate change and renewables are a major growth industry.

  • But global carbon emissions are still rising as use of fossil sources and renewables alike rise to meet growing demand.
  • Simply put, while the renewables' share of power demand is growing (see chart above), the whole pie is growing too.
  • “[D]eployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals,” IEA head Fatih Birol said in a statement alongside the new forecast.

Quick take: Even IEA's higher forecast could prove too modest, given that the agency has often underestimated renewables growth in the past.