Despite encouraging signs of progress in a number of areas, greater efforts are needed to put the world on track to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, according to the IEA’s latest assessment of global progress in clean energy technologies.
The annual Tracking Clean Energy Progress (TCEP) update assesses 55 components of the energy system – sectors, technologies, infrastructure and cross-cutting CO2 mitigation strategies – and assesses their progress in 2021 towards achieving key medium-term milestones by the end of this decade that are set in the IEA’s pathway to net zero emissions by 2050. The TCEP analysis is available as a comprehensive online resource on the IEA’s website.
Recent technological developments and political actions suggest momentum is accelerating in some important regions and sectors. Early estimates indicate that 2022 will be a record year for renewable electricity capacity additions, with an increase of around 340 gigawatts, roughly equivalent to all of Japan’s installed electricity capacity. China accounts for about half of these additions. This year is also expected to see another all-time high for electric vehicle sales, taking them to 13% of total light vehicle sales worldwide. Pipelines for hydrogen projects and carbon capture and storage facilities continue to expand, and the past year has seen record heat pump sales. Last year, a pilot project used hydrogen to produce completely fossil-free steel, and the first commercial production of lithium-free sodium-ion batteries is expected to start next year.
“There are more signs than ever that the new global energy economy is making strong progress,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “It reaffirms my belief that the current global energy crisis can be a turning point towards a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system. But this new IEA analysis shows the need for greater and sustained efforts across a range of technologies and sectors to ensure the world can meet its energy and climate goals.
On the policy front, the landmark US Inflation Reduction Act – signed into law in August – provides $370 billion in energy security and climate change investments, boosting a wide range clean energy technologies, ranging from solar, wind and electric vehicles to carbon capture and hydrogen. Meanwhile, with its REPowerEU plan, the European Union is raising its targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency and devoting significant resources to achieving them.
Governments are also spending more on clean energy research and development, which could reach $35 billion in 2022, while venture capital investments in clean energy start-ups hit an all-time high in 2021. Governments support major R&D and demonstration projects through measures such as the US Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the EU Innovation Fund, Japan’s Green Innovation Fund and the 14th Five-Year Plan of China, with a growing focus on heavy industry, hydrogen and carbon capture.
Despite these positive signs, this year’s TCEP, which assesses the state of play in 2021, found that only two components – electric vehicles and lighting – were fully on track for their 2030 milestones in the scenario. IEA’s Net Zero by 2050, the same two as the year before. Sales of electric vehicles doubled last year globally to account for almost 9% of the automotive market, while more than 50% of the global lighting market now uses LED technology. Of the remaining follow-up areas, 30 were rated as “more effort needed” and 23 were “not on track”. Areas that are not on track include improving the energy efficiency of building designs, developing clean and efficient district heating, phasing out coal-fired electricity generation, eliminating methane flaring, switching aviation and shipping to cleaner fuels, and producing cleaner cement, chemicals and steel.
Alongside the TCEP, the IEA is also releasing an expanded clean energy innovation tracker, which includes an update to the Clean Technology Guide, as well as a new publicly available global database on Clean Energy Demonstration Projects which provides project-by-project information, including location. , sector, technology, technology readiness, status, funding and timing of operations. The database responds to the need to monitor how public and private support for demonstration projects translates into projects on the ground.
Clean energy transitions will require a diversity of technologies and fuels across all parts of the energy system, calling for comprehensive and ambitious policy packages that adequately support transitions across all sectors, according to TCEP analysis. This decade is a critical time to lay a solid foundation for achieving longer-term goals.