Global energy transformation to save the world $160trn by 2050

Transforming the global energy system through intense electrification and rapid adoption of renewables would save the world $160trn in health, subsidy and environmental costs by 2050.

That is the headline finding of a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which estimates that the transition could provide a payoff of up to $7 for every $1 spent. Moreover, the researchers calculate that the shift would boost global GDP by 2.5% and employment by 0.2% in 2050, with renewables creating more jobs than those lost in the fossil fuel industries.

The findings are based on immediately deployable, cost-effective options that are available now to countries looking to fulfil their climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“An unprecedented decline in renewable energy costs, new opportunities in energy efficiency, digitalisation, smart technologies and electrification solutions are some of the key enablers,” said IRENA director-general Francesco La Camera.

However, the researchers warned that deployment of renewables must increase by at least six-fold compared to current government plans if global climate objectives are to be met.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) fall “far short”, with energy-related emissions having risen by around 1% every year since 2015, and the world’s ‘carbon budget’ set to run out within a decade.

IRENA analysis suggests that energy-related CO2 emissions need to decline 70% by 2050, but that a large-scale shift to renewables could provide 90% of this if ramped-up energy efficiency is factored in.

Under this scenario, with electricity becoming the dominant energy carriers, global power supply could more than double, with renewable sources meeting 85% of demand.

The study highlights how a global energy transition could soon be a reality, with renewables already making up more than half of newly installed power-generation capacity.

“The world’s choices today will be crucial to reaching a sustainable energy and climate safe future,” La Camera continued.

“I hope this high ambition is matched with decisive action on the ground to advance an inclusive, fair and economically, socially and environmentally beneficial, energy transformation.”

Read the study at


Image credit | iStock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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