The number of countries with renewable energy targets has quadrupled in a decade to 164 in 2015, up from just 43 countries in 2005, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The report ‘Renewable Energy Target Setting’, launched alongside IRENA’s ninth Council meeting, found that 131 of these countries are developing or emerging economies.

The majority of targets are in the electricity sector with 150 countries having such targets, however, goals in other sectors such as heating, cooling and transport are rising.

Countries setting targets for the heating and cooling sector increased from two in 2005 to 47 currently. Similarly, renewable transport targets have doubled from 27 countries in 2005 to 59 today.

The report also makes clear that renewable energy targets are not sufficient and credible to investors without being backed up by clear strategies and being supported through policy. Therefore it lays out a framework for policy makers when designing or revising national or local renewable energy targets.

In the majority of cases, renewable energy targets do not contain a binding obligation.

Targets can be embedded within sectoral plans, such as Integrated Resource Plans or energy sector master plans such as in South Africa and Brazil. Some are in National Renewable Energy Action Plans as in the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States region. Others are part of national development plans as is the case in China and India.

The report categorises four types of targets in terms of specificity, measurability and binding character:

  1. Political announcements and vision statement
  2. Energy strategies and scenarios
  3. Detailed roadmaps and action plans
  4. Legally binding energy targets

It should be noted that two other countries, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, have set renewable energy targets but only at the sub-national level.

IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin said: “Renewable energy targets have emerged as a popular mechanism to set national and regional economies on the path towards a more secure and sustainable energy future. They provide an important signal to the industry and can help to align stakeholders by creating a clearer, common vision for the development of the energy sector.”

“Governments are increasingly adopting renewable energy targets to meet multiple objectives including energy security, environmental sustainability and socio-economic benefits.”