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A Paris agreement on climate change, to be reached later this year, may not save the planet, but will further tip the competitiveness of low-carbon technologies.
The pledges towards a Paris agreement made by the top four energy consumers alone, China, the United States, the European Union and India, imply at least an extra 1,500 gigawatts of renewable power by 2030.
As a counter-cyclical investment, carbon-cutting technologies benefit from consistent climate science. Political interest in climate change has helped low-carbon technologies weather the commodity down-cycle, and is getting an extra nudge from a prospective Paris climate agreement, where many countries have made ambitious targets to deploy renewable energy after 2020.
Below is a summary of pledges for adoption of low-carbon energy by 2025 or 2030, for the top four energy consumers last year, in descending order.
CHINA – Main target to increase the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 20% of primary energy consumption, in 2030, from 11% today. The target is equivalent to 1,200 gigawatts of wind, solar and hydro power in 2030, compared with 425 GW in 2014, according to analysis by China’s National Centre for Climate Change Strategy, or an extra 775 GW of renewable power in 2030.
UNITED STATES – Main target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels, partly implemented through the EPA’s recently published Clean Power Plan. U.S. Department of Energy analysis of the Clean Power Plan projects some 341 GW of renewables (wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal and waste) in 2030, compared with 162 GW in 2014, or an extra 179 GW.
EUROPEAN UNION – EU leaders have agreed to source some 27% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030, compared with about 15% now. An EU impact assessment calculated that the target implied that renewables (wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal and waste) would reach 47% of electricity consumption in 2030, about double the share in 2013 (25%). Converting that into installed capacity is complicated, depending on trends in power consumption and capacity factor. If power demand remained about the same, doubling the share of renewables would require at least a doubling of the 380 GW of renewables in 2013, or an extra 380 GW in 2030.
INDIA – Proposed that non-fossil fuels would reach 40% of generating capacity in 2030, compared with 30% in 2012, conditional on receiving technical and funding assistance. India also proposed to increase combined wind, solar and biomass power capacity to 170 GW in 2022, from 32 GW in 2015, or an extra 138 GW.