Developing countries sidelined in renewable energy push, experts say

The disparity between developing and developed countries must be acknowledged, Irena chief says

Francesco La Camera, director general, Irena. A record 295 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added globally in 2022, according to the agency. Photo: Irena
Powered by automated translation

Renewable energy adoption reached a record high last year amid an energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war, but most of it was concentrated in developed economies, said experts, who highlighted the importance of addressing the growing disparity.

A record 295 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added globally in 2022, up about 10 per cent from the year before, Irena said in a report earlier this year.

China, the EU and the US accounted for two thirds of all additions last year, the report added.

“The case for renewables no longer needs to be proven,” said Francesco La Camera, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, during a panel discussion at the World Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The “accelerated” growth in clean energy capacity underlines its importance in addressing challenges such as energy security, fossil fuel price volatility and climate change, Mr La Camera said.

“But, we must acknowledge the disparity between developing and developed countries,” he said.

Investments in renewable energy technologies reached a record $1.3 trillion in 2022, but 85 per cent of it benefitted less than 50 per cent of the world’s population, according to the Abu Dhabi-based agency.

The data … masks important differences.

“This reality must change significantly. Acceleration in energy deployment is needed across energy sectors and technologies,” he added.

Beata Javorcik, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said insufficient political commitment was hampering climate investments.

“Administrative and legal barriers to investment tend to be onerous because enabling regulations such as carbon pricing is often lacking,” Ms Javorcik said.

“These constraints do not allow potential returns to investment to materialise.”

Their remarks come ahead of the Cop28 climate summit in UAE where countries will assess where they stand with regards to climate goals as part of a process called the global stocktake.

Indonesia, South-East Asia’s largest economy, aims to launch its “first project” during Cop28 for the early retirement of coal power.

“We are still discussing it …[but] the finance for early retirement of coal is still not considered as green financing,” said Yudo Priaadi, director general of new renewable energy and energy conservation and Indonesia’s energy ministry.

Mr Priaadi said the lack of coal industry financing by major banks and investors impeded efforts to adopt clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage.

Indonesia, which recently started trading carbon dioxide emission credits and has set a target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060, is lobbying hard for more flexible financing.

Transitioning away from coal, which in some provinces employs more than 10 per cent of the population, is expected to have deep social consequences.

Updated: October 17, 2023, 2:57 PM