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COP28: World’s biggest economies block efforts to triple renewable electricity

COP28-triple-renewable-electricity

World leaders are meeting at COP28 in Dubai from November 30th until December 12th. One of the most important news we all await from the summit is the commitment to triple global renewable electricity capacity by 2030. However, common policy barriers are hampering the rollout of those renewables in some of the world’s biggest economies. This is according to a new report Financing the Energy Transition: How Governments Can Maximise Corporate Investment, by international non-profit Climate Group. – Image by IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

Climate Group’s RE100 initiative works with over 400 companies with a combined electricity demand larger than France, committed to using 100% renewable electricity across their global operations. They are investing billions of dollars to achieve that, but policy and regulatory barriers are stopping corporates from investing in renewable electricity in many markets. This has knock-on effects on the phase out of fossil fuels, Climate Group said.

The report, launched today at COP28, highlights common policy gaps that are holding back eight G20 economies, presenting them as examples of challenges faced by many countries around the world. The report, which focuses on Argentina, China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa, provides recommendations that would break down barriers, enabling countries to seize the economic opportunities of the energy transition and speed up the race to net zero.

In South Korea for example, 129 of the country’s 226 local governments (57%) have ordinances requiring solar facilities to be located at a minimum distance of anywhere between 100 to 1,000 meters from residential areas and roads – marking vast areas of the country off-limits to solar development.

COP28 need world’s biggest economies triple renewable electricity

“Renewables are the gold rush of the 21st century, but many businesses, states, regions, and countries are still missing out. The age of cheap fossil fuels is over, and it’s time for governments to take simple steps to open their markets to billions of dollars in corporate investment in cheap, clean renewable electricity. It’s great that countries are actively discussing tripling their renewable electricity capacity, but they’re going to have to break down barriers in their own countries to actually deliver on that promise”, said Sam Kimmins, Director of Energy at Climate Group.

The barriers identified in the report fall under three common themes. Firstly, the availability of renewable electricity in a country or region. Secondly, the accessibility of this electricity for corporate use. Finally, the affordability of renewable electricity in some markets, which is often out of step with the vastly lower cost of renewable electricity elsewhere in the world. The challenges posed by restrictive regulatory environments and market barriers are also explored.

In the run up to COP28, calls for more action on the phase out of fossil fuels and stronger leadership from the world’s biggest economies have been increasing. Positive signs came earlier this year when G20 nations committed to pursue a tripling of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 through existing targets and policies. To do this, it’s vital that governments remove the most common policy barriers that are locking in fossil fuels and slowing the global transition to net zero.

“With the renewable energy market expected to hit USD $2.15 trillion by 2025 and sustainable investment surpassing $35 trillion in 2020, market opportunities are huge for countries that work with businesses to prioritise sustainability and drive towards net zero. Continuing to promote fossil fuels, at the expense of renewables, or by not adequately supporting renewables through policies and market structures, is a dead-end road,” continued Kimmins.

There is a series of policy recommendations in the report that countries can use to unlock the huge economic potential of renewables.

How to triple renewable electricity

Establish an enabling regulatory environment for corporate sourcing and accessibility of renewables.

    • Increase the transparency and additionality of renewable energy certificates (RECs).
    • Ease complicated PPA processes, including addressing the lack of transparency and incentives.
    • Understand and amend the geographic and regional disparities in the availability of PPAs and harmonise PPA rules and contract processes.

Create a level playing field to ensure the affordability of renewables.

    • Create a level playing field on which renewable electricity competes fairly with fossil fuel and reflects the cost-competitiveness of renewable electricity production.
    • Remove fossil fuel subsidies to stop unfair competition with renewables and reduce the subsidy burden on taxpayers.

Incentivise and increase supply to ensure sufficient availability of renewables.

    • Work with utilities or electricity suppliers to provide and improve options for corporate renewable electricity sourcing.
    • Address permitting and siting issues that are unduly limiting opportunities for installation of new renewable electricity infrastructure.
    • Promote direct investments in on-site and off-site renewable electricity projects.

Besides South Korea, the report includes other examples where policies have a direct impact on private investment in a country’s energy infrastructure. In 2018, the year President Andrés Manuel López Obrador came to power, Mexico attracted $5 billion in foreign direct investment in its energy sector. By 2021 this was just $600 million – a fall attributed to investors being deterred by pro fossil-fuel rhetoric.

On the other side of the equation, South Africa’s Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) has stimulated more investment in renewables development, with 256 billion South African Rand (USD$17.32 billion) being committed through the programme. South Africa’s grid however is struggling to incorporate it, showing the need to invest in infrastructure as well.

By adopting the recommendations in the report, countries could unlock billions of dollars in investment, with the overall goal of combatting climate change and helping countries reach their net zero targets.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Climate Group drives climate action. Fast. Our goal is a world of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with greater prosperity for all. We focus on systems with the highest emissions and where our networks have the greatest opportunity to drive change. We do this by building large and influential networks and holding organisations accountable, turning their commitments into action. We share what we achieve together to show more organisations what they could do. We are an international non-profit organisation, founded in 2004, with offices in London, Amsterdam, Beijing, New Delhi and New York. We are proud to be part of the We Mean Business coalition. Follow us on Twitter @ClimateGroup.

About RE100

RE100 is a global initiative bringing together the world’s most influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity. Led by Climate Group, our mission is to drive change towards 100% renewable grids, both through the direct investments of our members, and by working with policymakers to accelerate the transition to a clean economy. The initiative has over 400 members, ranging from household brands to critical infrastructure and heavy industry suppliers. With a total revenue of over US$6.6 trillion, our members represent 1.5% of global electricity consumption, an annual electricity demand higher than that of the UK. RE100 was established in partnership with CDP.