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Invest $131 trillion in clean energy by 2050 to hit climate goals, agency says

Matthew Green
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Power-generating Siemens 2.37 megawatt (MW) wind turbines are seen at the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in this aerial photo taken over Ocotillo, California

By Matthew Green

LONDON (Reuters) - Planned investment in clean energy must increase by 30% to a total of $131 trillion by 2050 to avert catastrophic climate change, with the need to massively scale up hydrogen production particularly acute, according to a study https://www.irena.org/publications/2021/March/World-Energy-Transitions-Outlook published on Tuesday.

In its annual flagship report, the International Renewable Energy Agency underscored the scale and pace of change needed to cap the rise in average global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the 2015 Paris climate accord.

"The gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing but widening," said Francesco La Camera, director-general of the Abu Dhabi-based organisation, which has more than 160 member states. "We need a drastic acceleration of energy transitions to make a meaningful turnaround."

The agency's "1.5C pathway" set out in the report found that fossil fuel consumption would have to fall by more than 75% by 2050, with oil and coal shrinking more quickly.

Use of natural gas would have to peak in 2025, although it would be the dominant fossil fuel by mid-century.

Renewable power capacity will have to expand more than ten-fold by mid-century, accompanied by a 30-fold increase in the electrification of transport, the report found.

It also foresaw a dramatic increase in the production and use of "green hydrogen" - a zero-carbon fuel made by electrolysis, using power from wind and solar, that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.

By 2050, 30% of electricity use will be dedicated to producing green hydrogen and hydrogen and its derivatives, such as e-ammonia and e-methanol, the report said.

To produce this, global electrolyser capacity will need to expand to almost 5,000 Gigawatts from 0.3 GW today.

The report said governments could still harness post-pandemic recovery packages, which have so far mostly favoured fossil fuels, to accelerate the transition.

(Reporting by Matthew Green; Editing by Dan Grebler)