REN21 Renewables Report: Heating, Cooling, Transport Lag Behind Power Sector in Energy Transformation
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In 2017, investment in new renewable power capacity was more than twice that of new fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity combined, despite fossil fuel subsidies.

However, while 146 countries have national renewable energy targets in the power sector, only 48 countries have national renewable energy targets for heating and cooling, and 42 for renewable energy use in transport.

To ensure changes in the three sectors, the report calls for: appropriate policy frameworks that drive innovation; the development of new renewable energy technologies; and political leadership to end fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies, invest in infrastructure, and establish targets and policies for heating, cooling and transport.

4 June 2018: While the renewable energy transformation is underway for the power sector, the heating, cooling and transport sectors, which account for 80% of total energy demand, are lagging behind and require accelerated action to meet SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a status report on the renewables, published by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

Titled ‘Renewables 2018 Global Status Report’ (GSR), the publication highlights that renewables accounted for 70% of added power generating capacity in 2017, with record growth in solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity and wind power. The report explains that, in 2017, investment in new renewable power capacity was more than twice that of new fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity combined, despite fossil fuel subsidies. It states that more than two thirds of investments in power generation were in renewables, mainly concentrated in China, Europe and the US, which together accounted for almost 75% of global investment in renewables. However, when measured per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), the Marshall Islands, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Guinea Bissau and other developing countries invested in renewables as much as or more than developed and emerging economies.

To achieve the Paris Agreement’s objectives, heating, cooling and transport must follow the same path as the power sector, according to the report. Only 48 countries have national renewable energy targets for heating and cooling, while 146 have renewable energy targets in the power sector. While electricity provides 1.3% of transport energy needs, with around one quarter being renewable and 2.9% biofuels, 92% of the sector’s energy demand is met by oil, and only 42 countries have national targets for renewable energy use in transport.

At the same time, the report points to some progress in the three sectors. For example, in India, installations of solar thermal collectors increased by 25% in 2017. China aims to ensure that 2% of cooling loads of buildings are derived from solar thermal energy by 2020. Also, 1.2 million passenger electric cars were sold in 2017, a 58% increase from 2016. The report finds that: energy access continued to increase, albeit slowly, in developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa; commitments to phase out coal power are on the rise; and solar PV and wind costs continued to fall due to technological innovations, market changes and changing business models, including on the part of traditional utilities.

An estimated US$45-56 billion will be required annually until 2030 to meet SDG target 7.1 targets on universal energy access.

On transport, the report underscores increasing use of electric passenger cars, scooters and bicycles in such countries as Norway and China. It notes that more than 200 million two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles hit the roads in 2016, with 30 million added each year, and that electric passenger cars surpassed three million in 2017. India, the Netherlands and Slovenia will ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030, and France and the UK by 2040. Moreover, 16 corporations from China, Europe and the US joined a campaign to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles.

The report also explains that, while rail accounts for only 2% of total energy used in transport, it is the most highly electrified transport sector, with renewables comprising over one third of the electricity used. It cites the example of the Netherlands achieving 100% renewable electricity in its railway system. Regarding air and maritime transport, which use around 11% and 9% of total energy used in transport, respectively, the report highlights efforts by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to support deployment of renewables.

To ensure changes in the three sectors, the report calls for: appropriate policy frameworks that drive innovation; the development of new renewable energy technologies; and political leadership to end fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies, invest in infrastructure, and establish targets and policies for heating, cooling and transport.

The report also acknowledges that current renewable energy investments are not enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. It notes that renewable energy investments in developed countries declined by 18.3% in 2017, and an estimated US$45-56 billion will be required annually until 2030 to meet SDG target 7.1 on universal energy access. To meet the SDGs and the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the report calls for, inter alia: setting priorities through tax and other financial incentives; setting targets for the energy system as a whole, including for end-use sectors; and adopting policies that enable the rapid uptake of renewables.

First published in 2005, the annual Renewables GSR provides a comprehensive overview of the status, recent developments and trends in renewable energy markets, industries, investments and policy developments. [Publication: Renewables 2018: Global Status Report] [Renewables 2018 GSR Chapter Outlines Webpage] [Renewables 2018 GSR Landing Page] [Advancing the Global Renewables Energy Transition: Highlights] [Renewables 2018 GSR Infographics] [REN21 Press Release] [UNFCCC Press Release]

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