Chart: Is climatetech manufacturing on track for net-zero goals?

The International Energy Agency’s latest update finds some technologies surging and others struggling to keep pace with the trajectory needed for a decarbonized future.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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A solar array with wind turbines in background against a bright blue sky and wispy clouds. Graphic reads chart of the week

Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

The world may have until 2050 to reach net-zero carbon emissions — but getting there will require a lot of action right now.

In order for the world to be on track to hit that 2050 net-zero target, the International Energy Agency projects we’ll need a certain level of manufacturing capacity for key climate technologies to be built out by 2030. Think of it as an interim goal to reach the scale of deployment needed for these technologies to be in line with a net-zero energy system.

So how do these technologies currently stack up against the IEA’s net-zero trajectory? It’s a mixed bag, according to a recent report from the organization.

As it stands, solar manufacturing is on track to exceed its 2030 target: If all announced solar panel manufacturing projects are realized by then, their combined output, along with higher utilization rates for existing facilities, would put manufacturing output for solar 30 percent higher than what the IEA says is needed for a net-zero trajectory. Even just counting already-committed projects — which have secured investments or are already under construction — solar would reach 82 percent of its needed target by the end of the decade.

Batteries, the lifeblood of EVs and grid storage, are not too far behind. If all currently announced projects go ahead as planned, the tech would be 93 percent of the way to its 2030 goal. But unlike solar, a large proportion of the battery manufacturing pipeline is made up of earlier-stage projects, most of which have not yet finalized investment.

Electrolyzers, crucial for producing green hydrogen, are in a similar spot as batteries — at least on paper. Although there are plenty of announced projects, few are finalized, and current operational electrolyzer production is tiny compared to what will be needed by 2030 to supply heavy industry and certain forms of transport with enough green hydrogen to curb emissions.

As for wind energy and heat pumps, a lot more activity is needed. Based on the current pipeline, manufacturing capacity for both is set to hit just 36 percent of the IEA’s 2030 target. Growth in manufacturing for wind turbine components has been much slower than other technologies, ticking up just 2 percent year-over-year in 2022 as the offshore wind industry in particular struggles through a morass of financial and supply-chain difficulties.

But a lot of the progress toward these 2030 targets has been relatively recent: In 2022 alone, manufacturing capacity for batteries grew 72 percent year-over-year; manufacturing capacity for solar and electrolyzers grew 39 percent and 26 percent, respectively. And the announcements keep coming, due in part to supportive policies like the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. and similar initiatives from other governments competing for a spot in the booming clean-energy manufacturing space. That growth, while still not enough to put the world on track for net zero by 2050, shows just how quickly clean energy technologies can make up ground.

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Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.