Clean electricity will power the global energy transition. Global electricity demand will have to more than double between 2020 and 2050 to reach net zero by 2050, says the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its pathway to net zero. The share of electricity powering transport will increase from less than 2% in 2020 to around 45% in 2050, the number of heat pumps installed will increase ten-fold, while the electricity needed to produce green hydrogen will be greater than the current total annual electricity demand of China and the US

Clean electricity will power the global energy transition, and solar and wind will lead the charge. (Photo by Peter Cade/Getty Images

The share of renewables in electricity generation will have to increase from 29% in 2020, to 60% in 2030 and 90% by 2050. The majority of this growth will be powered by the cheapest sources of renewables, solar and wind. The IEA says annual capacity additions of wind and solar between 2020 and 2050 must be five times higher than the average over the past three years.

The global roll-out of solar and wind is the subject of the first of Energy Monitor’s end-of-year forecasts, and is illustrated in the chart below. The chart compares historic annual growth in solar and wind capacity, with projected capacity growth under current policies up to 2030 and the growth that will be needed to be on track for net zero by 2050, according to the IEA.

The forecast suggests there will be significant growth in solar and wind capacity additions, with annual growth in 2030 around six times greater than the figure recorded in 2010. However, this trajectory remains far off what is required to transition to a net-zero energy system by 2050. The overall capacity increase between 2022 and 2030 is set to be approximately 50% below what is needed. 

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See also Energy Monitor's Power Transition Tracker, a series of exclusive data stories monitoring the global energy transition in electricity, and end-of-year forecasts for fossil fuels and electric vehicles