PV capacity in the US could reach 135GW within 15 years under proposals by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to boost the proportion of renewables in the US energy mix to more than a quarter by 2030.
Although current policies would achieve a 10% renewable energy quota by 2030, IRENA’s report, ‘Renewable Energy Prospects: United States of America’, part of its REmap 2030 series, suggests a much higher proportion of 27% by the same time is both achievable and affordable.
Last year the US and China agreed a bilateral pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the report suggests that the US could go even further.
“As the second largest energy consumer in the world, the US must continue to play a leading role in the global transition to a sustainable energy future,” said Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of IRENA. “The recent agreement between the US and China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a groundbreaking step, but this report aims even higher, showing that more can be done at limited cost.”
The cost of deploying the higher share of renewables would be in the order of US$86 billion annually, US$38 billion more a year than the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. But IRENA calculated that this would be offset by savings from factors such as improved human health and reduced emissions, which could amount to US$30-140 million annually by 2030.
“REmap 2030 shows that the US could install significantly higher amounts of renewables – and that it can do so affordably,” said Amin. “Even in a country with cheap shale gas like the US, renewable energy is still cost competitive and reduces air pollution, enhances energy security, benefits the economy, and plays a leading role in fighting climate change.”
IRENA said that because the US had some of the world's best solar resrouces, PV would play a key role in the the transition to renewable energy envisioned by IRENA, reaching a potential 135GW by 2030 from today’s 16GW. Up to a third of this could potentially come from distributed, on-site PV installations, the report said.
REmap 2030 is IRENA’s roadmap to doubling the share of renewable energy in the world’s energy mix by 2030 and determines the potential for the US and other countries to scale up renewable energy in the energy system.
“This report adds to the growing chorus of studies that show the increasing cost competitiveness and potential of renewable energy in the US,” said Dolf Gielen, director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre. “Importantly, it shows the potential of renewables isn’t just limited to the power sector, but also has tremendous potential in the buildings, industry and transport sectors.”