From Romantic Story to Reality: The Rise of Solar and Wind Energy

From Romantic Story to Reality: The Rise of Solar and Wind Energy

Despite the remarkable strides in renewable energy and electric vehicles, Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), has warned that the rate of change is still not fast enough to reach climate goals. His insights, coupled with a new report, underline the need for accelerated action and international cooperation.

“Ten years ago solar energy was a romantic story. But today the bulk of new power stations come from solar and wind.” Birol declared in a recent BBC interview. This transformative shift underlines how far we’ve come, but as Birol points out, it’s not nearly far enough.

While we’ve seen an uplifting surge in renewable energy investments and green technologies, the fight against climate change is far from won. Fatih Birol, the world’s leading energy economist and the head of the IEA, has voiced cautious optimism but emphasises the need for swifter, more robust actions. 

Birol notes a considerable uptick in renewable energy installations. “Just this year more than 80% of new power plants built in the world are renewables and only 20% Coal. Two years ago one out of 25 cars sold in the world was electric. This year one out of 5 cars are sold as electric, it is growing very strongly,” he stated in a recent interview with the BBC. The rate of clean energy investments has also soared by 40% over the past two years, a statistic that leaves Birol more optimistic than he was a couple of years ago. 

However, even with these strides, Birol raises the alarm. “Both solar and electric cars, but if you ask me do they grow fast enough to reach our climate goals? Absolutely not. We have to see a reduction in fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas,” he candidly admitted in the same interview. He also addressed the unsettling issue of extreme weather conditions. “The current extreme weather will be much more severe and frequent,” he said, indicating that the climate is already altering at a rapid pace.

The IEA has laid out a Net Zero Roadmap, urging countries with 2050 net zero targets to accelerate their plans. The roadmap specifically calls for almost all countries, developed or developing, to re-evaluate their targeted net zero dates. In line with this, Birol advocates for tripling renewable energy by 2030 and significantly reducing methane emissions from the energy sector. “To reduce fossil fuel emissions, we need to reduce demand for fossil fuels. This is a golden condition, if we are to reach our climate goals,” he added.

While there’s a global consensus on the need for rapid change, the geopolitical landscape complicates matters. Conflicts like the Ukraine war and strained relations between the U.S. and China can be stumbling blocks to international cooperation. “The most important challenge [to limiting temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels] is the lack of international cooperation,” Birol commented. 

As countries prepare for the upcoming UN climate summit, Cop28, in Dubai, the urgency to revamp their climate goals is clear. Birol’s insights offer both a glimmer of hope and a call to action. “Advanced economies have special responsibilities in fighting climate change,” he said. Now more than ever, it’s essential that nations heed this advice, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the battle against climate change.