Tuesday 2 May 2023

The 2023 Renewables Global Status Report points to major opportunities for renewables in the transport sector

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The annual Renewables Global Status Report (GSR) 2023 Collection was released by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) along with four additional modules that examine the worldwide trends and prospects for the use of renewable energy in buildings, industry, transportation, and agriculture.

The report shows positive trends in the uptake of renewables across all four analysed sectors, which has been significantly driven by the energy crisis, soaring fossil fuel prices, and a growing commitment to combatting climate change.

Nevertheless, the transport sector shows a low rate of adoption, with only 4% coming from renewables, despite it being the fastest growing sector in terms of energy consumption, with road transport being responsible for almost 78% of use in 2021, whereas rail only accounted for 3%.

Moreover, the 2023 Renewables GSR highlights the importance of focusing on “avoid-shift-improve” strategies, with policies and measures to reduce the need for motorised transport and incentivising the use of less energy-intensive modes like walking, cycling and rail, whenever possible.

Recently, the French National Railway (SNCF) signed a 25-year solar power purchasing agreement (PPA) as part of its aim to have 40% to 50% of its energy stemming from renewable sources by 2026. In a similar effort to enhance its current renewable energy systems, in 2022, the Austrian Federal Railway (ÖBB) announced that they were investing 1 billion Euros (1.07 billion USD) in hydroelectric, wind and solar projects.

However, in order for the transport sector to become more sustainable and efficient, and to transition to a renewables-based sector, continuing electrification will not be sufficient. Policy and finance stakeholders need to step up and address issues surrounding heavily subsidised fossil fuels, as they create market distortions and hinder the further use of renewables.

The rail sector’s steady efforts to improve energy efficiency, and increasingly use renewables and alternative technologies, like batteries and hydrogen, continue to show the sector’s ever-growing ambition to improve climate resilience and sustainability, while offering a low-carbon option. Additionally, these form one of the key pillars of the UIC Vision 2030 and the More Trains campaign.

For further information, please contact Joo Hyun Ha, UIC Sustainability Strategy & International Partnerships Senior Advisor at ha@uic.org

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Figure 1: 2023 Renewables Global Status Report, REN21
Figure 2: 2023 Renewables Global Status Report, REN21