US 'could hit' 27% renewables penetration in 2030: Irena

The US can ratchet up its use of renewable energy in power generation to almost 50% by 2030, transforming the nation in to the world's second largest renewable energy producer after China, according to new figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

But sticking to current government policies will result in it falling far short of this potential, with renewable energy on track to reach only 10% of the US energy mix by the end of the next decade rather than 27%, Irena warns in its report Renewable Energy Prospects: United States of America.

"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," says Irena director-general Adnan Amin.

"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."

By Irena calculations, a yearly spend of $86bn between now and 2030 is needed to reach the 27% renewables mark – an increase of $38bn annually beyond a business-as-usual scenario.

Such an investment level would also result savings of $30-140bn by 2030 when accounting for factors including human health and reduced emissions.

"The US could install significantly higher amounts of renewables – and it can do so affordably," says 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."

The latest Irena report is part of the agency's REmap 2030 roapmap, which set out a plan to double the share of renewable energy in the world's energy mix by 2030 by scaling up scale up renewables in the energy system, including power, industry, buildings, and the transport sector.

"This report adds to the growing chorus of studies that show the increasing cost competitiness and potential of renewable energy in the US," says Irena's Innovation and Technology Centre director Dolf Gielen.

"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."