As more investors and companies seek greater clarity and confidence in accounting for long-term climate risks and opportunities, businesses are adapting to the “energy transition” — a transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based systems of energy production and consumption to renewable energy sources. Switching from nonrenewable energy sources like oil, natural gas, and coal to renewable energy is made possible by technological advancements and a societal push toward sustainability. Spurred by structural, permanent changes to energy supply, demand, and prices, the energy transition also aims to reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions through various forms of decarbonization.
After years of depending on regulation for growth in the sector, renewable energy sources have become a powerful and cost-effective source of electricity. The costs of both solar and wind have fallen so drastically that in some regions of the U.S., as well as in the U.K. and Europe, wind power has become cheaper than traditional high-carbon energy resources. As costs continue to fall and wind and solar become mainstream, the renewable energy sector will only keep growing and solidify as a strong investment opportunity.
The energy transition is a pathway toward transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon by the second half of this century. At its heart is the need to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions to limit climate change. Decarbonisation of the energy sector requires urgent action on a global scale, and while a global energy transition is underway, further action is needed to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. Renewable energy and energy efficiency measures can potentially achieve 90% of the required carbon reductions.
The energy transition will be enabled by information technology, smart technology, policy frameworks and market instruments. IRENA has assessed decarbonisation pathways through REmap, and is equipped to support and accelerate the energy transition by providing the necessary knowledge, tools and support to Member countries as they increase the share of renewable energy in their power sectors.
A report released this month goes into that question in considerable detail. The Renewables Global Status Report (GSR), released annually by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21, a think tank), digs into the growth rates of various energy sources, the flows of clean energy investment, and the world’s progress on its sustainability goals.
It is a treasure trove of information. It is also … really long. 250 pages long. So many words!
In an effort to save you, the modern information consumer, precious time, I have gone through the report and extracted the 12 charts and graphs that best tell the story of clean energy as of 2018.