IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, has released an article which highlights the potential of renewable energy sources to tackle global climate change. The article builds on a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “Global Warming of 1.5 °C”. In this much-awaited special report, the IPCC stresses the significance of renewable energy deployment, as well as increased energy efficiency. IRENA comments that, while renewable power capacity additions outpaced additions from fossil fuels and nuclear power combined in the past six years, renewables deployment must accelerate significantly faster nonetheless. This is to make sure the international climate goal of a global temperature increase below 1.5 °C is reached.
The IPCC report highlights the roles to be played by the different types of renewable energy sources. In order to reach the 1.5 °C goal, combined hydro, solar, and wind power deployment has to increase significantly. Due to its technological potential, a large role is to be played by solar energy generation. In fact, the largest growth driver for renewable energy since the IPCC’s 2008 report AR5 has been the dramatic reduction in the cost of solar PV. It is projected that this trend will continue, and so the role of solar power worldwide will continue to be of great significance. This is especially true in countries with large solar potential (high irridiation). At the same time, those countries and their energy markets show plenty of room for solar generation capacity to be expanded further. The resulting wordwide scale-up of solar power generation will be accompanied by vast investments. Solar investments are projected to reach up to 1 trillion USD in the coming decades. Sun-rich areas, especially, such as countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, stand to benefit from this. Here, the number of both large-scale and small-scale distributed energy projects can rapidly grow over the coming years. This offers potential for energy consumers to become energy producers themselves, as solar systems can be mounted on residential and commercial rooftops. Not only will this contribute significantly to clean electricity generation, and thereby to vital climate change mitigation, it will also enhance social wellbeing worldwide by contributing to universal energy access.