Asia under pressure for COP28 vow to triple renewables


Nearly 120 nations have pledged to triple their installed renewable energy capacity by the end of 2030, marking one of the achievements of this year's United Nations Climate Conference (COP28). This commitment is expected to accelerate the global energy transition, posing a new challenge in economies across Asia. These nations must continue to increase green energy while reducing reliance on coal-fired power.

Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 president speaks at Expo City Dubai. Nearly 120 nationsChina and India not included – have signed up to a pledge to triple their renewable energy capacity at COP28. (Photo: UNclimatechange)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that the global renewable energy generation capacity needs to reach 11,000 GW, an increase of 7,800 GW within the next seven years, to meet the goal. It is anticipated that most of this increase will come from solar and wind power. Specifically, solar capacity is projected to increase by five times, adding 4,000 GW, while wind power capacity is expected to up fourfold adding 2,600 GW, compared to 2022. 

According to the European environmental and energy think tank Ember, renewable energy generation in 57 countries globally (including the European Union) has the potential to double by the end of 2030, with ample room for rapid development. This November, Ember seemed optimism and said target was “in sight” because achieving the objectives set forth in COP28 would require an annual growth rate of 17%, a pace that has been sustained over the past 7 years.

India and China, two major coal-dependent nations, have not joined in the commitment, but China aims to double its renewable energy generation by 2030 while India, along with Indonesia and the Philippines, aspires to increase its renewable energy output by at least triple.

Ember analyst Dinita Setyawati, in an interview with Nikkei Asia, stated that Southeast Asian countries have the opportunity to achieve their 2030 renewable energy goals ahead of schedule. Given the current level of electricity generation, which is relatively low, there is significant untapped potential. "We should also note that other renewable energy sources, such as hydropower and geothermal, are also equally important for the region," she said.

IRENA suggests that these developing countries should expedite the construction of relevant infrastructure, including upgrades power grids, to accommodate the increasing renewable energy capacity. This would make power transmission and distribution more flexible. Additionally, there is a need to increase development financing and shift public capital from fossil fuels to renewable energy. “The global financial architecture must be reformed to support the energy transition in the Global South” the agency's October report said.

Wind turbines in north coastal Luzon Island, the Philippines. (Photo: Wayne S. Grazio)

There are still challenges ahead. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that investments in renewable energy needs to more than double to over $1.2 trillion annually by 2030. However, rising interest rates are affecting investor willingness, causing a slowdown in the infrastructure development of global solar and wind power.

According to research firm Preqin, infrastructure funding for the first nine months of 2023 amounted to only 29 billion USD, a significant decrease compared to the same period last year, which saw 128 billion USD.

Moreover, Reuters points out that some large-scale green energy development projects are facing logistical bottlenecks. For example, Ørsted, the world's largest offshore wind power developer, canceled two projects in the United States in November, resulting in an asset write-down of up to 5.6 billion USD. One of the contributing factors was supply chain delays caused by shipping, leading to a significant increase in costs and prompting the halt of the projects.

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