Members of the G7, who are well placed to fully decarbonize their electricity supply by 2035, could serve as the first movers in lowering the cost of technologies for other countries while maintaining electricity security, according to a report the International Energy Agency (IEA) released on Wednesday.
Requested by Britain, which holds the G7 Presidency this year, the Achieving Net Zero Electricity Sectors in G7 Members report builds on the IEA’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 report published in May to identify key milestones, challenges and opportunities for G7 members.
At the G7 summit this June, the leaders of Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US plus the European Union committed to reaching "an overwhelmingly decarbonized" power system in the 2030s and net zero emissions across their economies no later than 2050.
G7 countries currently account for about 40% of the global economy, 36% of global power generation capacity, 30% of global energy demand and 25% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, the report noted.
The agency said the electricity sector now accounts for one-third of the G7's energy-related emissions, down from a peak of nearly two-fifths in 2007.
Natural gas and renewables were the primary sources of electricity in the G7 in 2020, as each provides about 30% of the total with nuclear and coal nearly 20% each.
Renewables need to provide 60% of the G7's electricity supply by 2030, whereas under the current policies the countries are on track to reach only 48%.
"The G7 has an opportunity to demonstrate that electricity systems with 100% renewables during specific periods of the year and in certain locations can be secure and affordable. At the same time, increased reliance on renewables does require the G7 to lead the way in finding solutions to maintain electricity security, including seasonal storage and more flexible and robust grids," the report said.
According to the IEA's pathway to net zero by 2050, innovation delivers 30% of G7 electricity sector emissions reduction to 2050, requiring international collaboration while creating technology leadership opportunities for G7 countries.
Decarbonizing electricity could create 2.6M jobs in G7 countries
The report underlined that people need to be placed at the center of all clean electricity transitions, and that decarbonizing electricity could create as many as 2.6 million jobs in the G7 over the next decade.
However, as many as 300,000 jobs could be lost at fossil fuel power plants, which could have profound local impact, demanding strong and sustained policy attention to cushion the fallout on individuals and communities.
"G7 members have the financial and technological means to bring electricity sector emissions to net zero in the 2030s and doing so will create numerous spill-over benefits for other countries' clean energy transitions and add momentum to global efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050," Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, was quoted as saying.
"G7 leadership in this crucial endeavour would demonstrate that getting to electricity sectors with net zero emissions is both doable and advantageous, and would also drive new innovations that can benefit businesses and consumers," underlined Birol, a Turkish economist and energy expert.
Peter Altmaier, Germany's federal minister for economic affairs and energy, said the path to climate neutrality could only be achieved together with joint and decisive action.
"Our way towards climate neutrality is ambitious, but necessary. We need to act together with clear, joint and decisive action. The energy sector plays clearly a key role on our way to climate neutrality. Solutions are at hand, such as the exit from coal-fired power generation in Germany and other countries," he said.