Unlocking the grid is key to meeting global renewable goal

Washington D.C. Correspondent
Source: International Energy Agency, Renewables 2023 • The Asia Pacific region does not include China.

Tripling global renewable energy capacity by decade’s end is possible if all the wind and solar capacity currently languishing in regulatory limbo is hooked up to the power grid, a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report shows.

The world will need to add more than 11,000 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity by 2030 to wean itself off fossil-driven electricity and reach the goal of tripling renewables set at the United Nations climate summit in November, said the IEA.

Investments in updating and expanding power grids have generally not kept pace with the proliferation of renewable energy projects. Since 2010, transmission and distribution investments have grown just 1% per year since 2010 everywhere except China and India, according to IEA.

By the end of 2023, the world had added 510 GW of renewable capacity, but nearly three times as much wind and solar capacity is waiting to be added to the grid, Heymi Bahar, the report’s lead author and senior analyst with IEA’s Renewable Markets and Policy group, told news reporters at the report’s launch.

With 677 GW of wind and solar projects awaiting connection in the United States, the U.S. backlog is twice as much as the backlog in the EU, nearly three times that of the Asia Pacific region (excluding China) and four times as much as the backlog in Latin America.

To end the backlog and get the world on track to meet its renewable energy goal, Bahar said countries will need to process permit applications faster, which remains a particular problem in the U.S., and invest more money in expanding existing grids.