Global Energy Transformation: a Roadmap to 2050
In an era of accelerating change, the imperative to limit climate change and achieve sustainable growth is strengthening the momentum of the global energy transformation. The rapid decline in renewable energy costs, improving energy efficiency, widespread electrification, increasingly “smart” technologies, continual technological breakthroughs and well-informed policy making all drive this shift, bringing a sustainable energy future within reach.
While the transformation is gaining momentum, it must happen faster. Around two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from energy production and use, which are at the core of efforts to combat climate change. To meet climate goals, progress in the power sector needs to accelerate further, while the decarbonisation of transport and heating must pick up steam.
As this report makes clear, current and planned policies offer a comparatively slow path, whereby the world would exhaust its energy-related “carbon budget” in under 20 years, in terms of efforts to keep the global temperate rise well below 2°C. The budget for a 1.5°C limit, meanwhile, would potentially run out in less than a decade.
The energy system, consequently, requires rapid, immediate and sustained change. The deployment of renewables must increase at least six-fold compared to the levels set out in current plans. The share of electricity in total energy use must double, with substantial electrification of transport and heat. Renewables would then make up two-thirds of energy consumption and 85% of power generation. Together with energy efficiency, this could deliver over 90% of the climate mitigation needed to maintain a 2°C limit.
Fortunately, this is also the path of opportunity. It would enable faster growth, create more jobs, create cleaner cities and improve overall welfare. In economic terms, reducing human health and environmental costs would bring annual savings by 2050 up to five times the additional annual cost of the transition. The global economy in 2050 would be larger, with nearly 40 million jobs directly related to renewables and efficiency. Timely action would also avoid stranding over USD 11 trillion worth of energy-infrastructure assets that are tied to today’s polluting energy technologies.
Along with analysing options, this report examines the socio-economic footprint of the shift to renewables, providing insights into how to optimise the outcome. Policies to promote a just and fair transition can maximise the benefits for different countries, regions and communities. Transforming the global energy system would permit affordable, and universal, energy access, increase energy security, and diversify energy supply.
- Energy, Climate Change, Natural Resources
- Year Published:
- International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)