Electricity could supply around half the world’s energy demand in 2050, up from around 20% currently, according to the 2019 edition of the Global energy transformation: A roadmap to 2050 report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The scenario outlined by the agency’s experts in the report – which is based on current and planned energy policies – plots an aggressive but technically and economically feasible route for accelerated renewable energy adoption. It envisages the rise of electricity will be mainly attributable to more than 1 billion electric vehicles and the use of electricity for heating and cooling, as well as the emergence of green hydrogen, powered by renewable electricity.
Renewables are expected to be a key driver of electrification with clean power supplying two-thirds of global energy by 2050. Under the IRENA scenario which foresees clean energy reaching a global installed capacity of 20 TW by 2050, solar and wind are forecast to make up the lion’s share, with a cumulative 8.5 and 6 TW, respectively. That renewable energy capacity would be responsible for around 86% of electric demand, with 60% covered by solar and wind, and with gross electricity consumption expected to more than double over three decades. Total annual power generation from renewables is expected to grow from 7,000 TWh today to 47,056 TWh by 2050, the report noted.
“The transition to increasingly electrified forms of transport and heat, when combined with the increases in renewable power generation, can deliver around 60% of the energy-related CO² emission reductions needed to set the world on a pathway to meeting the Paris Agreement,” IRENA experts wrote. “When these measures are combined with direct use of renewable energy, the share of the emissions reductions from these combined sources reaches 75% of the total required.”
The authors of the report said energy-related carbon emissions would peak next year, adding: “By 2050 energy-related emissions would need to decline by 70% compared to today’s levels.”
Investment in global energy should reach $110 trillion in the period up to 2050, accounting for around 2% of worldwide GDP.