The International Energy Agency (IEA)'s roadmap for the world to reach net zero emissions by 2050 will require an immediate and massive deployment of clean energy technology.


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The Paris-based agency's call for an immediate halt to new fossil fuel developments will require worldwide investment in clean energy to more than triple by 2030, to roughly $5 trillion per annum.

The IEA’s roadmap to net zero emissions envisages nearly 90% of global electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2050, with solar photovoltaic and wind accounting for nearly 70% of that figure.

In order to reach this goal, solar and wind will need to scale up rapidly this decade, reaching annual additions of 630 gigawatts of solar PV and 390GW of wind by 2030, or roughly four times the record levels set in 2020.

In order to limit global temperature increases beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, the IEA believes global electricity generation will need to reach net zero emissions by 2040.

Greater flexibility

It also concedes that this will require greater flexibility in electricity systems — such as batteries, demand response, hydrogen-based fuels, hydropower and more — to ensure reliable supplies.

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) will also have a role to play in the pathway to net zero, according to the IEA, with the technology to help tackle emissions from existing energy assets, as well as help scale-up low‐emissions hydrogen production.

The IEA sees hydrogen-based fuels helping fill the gap where electricity cannot easily or economically replace fossil fuels and where limited sustainable bioenergy supplies cannot cope with demand.

This includes using hydrogen-based fuels for ships and planes, as well as hydrogen in heavy industries such as steel and chemicals.

By 2045, the IEA’s roadmap sees the vast majority of cars on the roads running on electricity or fuel cells, planes relying on advanced biofuels and synthetic fuels, while industrial plants will be using carbon capture or hydrogen to reduce their emissions.

However, while most of the carbon dioxide emissions through to 2030 will come from technologies already on the market, under the IEA’s roadmap, by 2050 almost half of the reductions will come from technology that is still in the demonstration or prototype phase.

As a result, the IEA states clean energy innovation will need to accelerate rapidly, with governments required to put research and development, demonstration and deployment of these emerging technologies at the centre of their energy and climate policies.

Leaving nobody behind

Under its roadmap, the IEA envisages global energy demand being roughly 8% smaller than today, but serving an economy more than twice as large and a population of around 2 billion more people than today.

The roadmap will also electricity provided to about 785 million people who currently have no access to it, while and providing clean cooking solutions to 2.6 billion people who lack them is an integral part of the IEA's net zero roadmap.

It estimates this will cost roughly $40 billion a year, or 1% of the current average annual energy sector investment.

It also believes this will bring major health benefits through reductions in indoor air pollution, claiming it would cut premature deaths by 2.5 million a year.

“The clean energy transition is for and about people,” IEA executive director Faith Birol said.

“The transition must be fair and inclusive, leaving nobody behind. We have to ensure that developing economies receive the financing and technological know-how they need to build out their energy systems to meet the needs of their expanding populations and economies in a sustainable way.”