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The 2020s: A decade of clean energy innovation


This year, International Energy Agency analysis has stressed the critical need for clean energy innovation in meeting ambitious climate goals such as net-zero emission pledges. To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, almost half the reductions in 2050 compared with our baseline scenario come from technologies currently at the demonstration or prototype phase. In heavy industry and long‐distance transport, the share of emissions reductions required from technologies still under development is even higher.

Not enough progress

The data are not yet showing sufficient clean energy innovation progress. Around $90 billion of public money needs to be mobilised globally as soon as possible to complete a portfolio of demonstration projects before 2030. Currently, only about $25 billion is budgeted globally for the remainder of this decade. Our World Energy Investment 2021 report shows that the world’s capacity to bring new technologies to market has been weakened as a result of the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The importance of tracking development

The IEA will continue to inform governments on data and policies. The IEA has supported long-standing data collection on public energy R&D budgets, allowing users to track trends in spending by energy technology going back to 1974. Data are collected each year from government budgets and state-owned companies for spending on a range of sectors including energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear power, fossil fuels, hydrogen and fuel cells, and more.

To support its data collection activity, the IEA has historically promoted work to harmonise standards and methods, and supported the establishment of new energy RD&D information systems beyond its 30 members. For example, the IEA is working with Brazil, which recently designed its own national research, development and deployment tracking system following international standards.

IEA-Mission Innovation collaboration

IEA’s collaboration with Mission Innovation on R&D data has highlighted capacity needs across countries. For example, the joint IEA-Mission Innovation May 2021 Workshop gathered nearly 100 participants online, representing 30 countries and 67 organisations, an impressive achievement that shows the broad interest and relevance of R&D data as countries seek to drive sustainable recoveries while meeting ambitious climate goals. The workshop agreed that future events could delve deeper into specific areas for further improvement. These areas include how to address gaps in R&D budgets’ information systems and how to gain new insights into funding by analysing policy instrument type, technology maturity, recipient gender, private sector funders or employment impacts.

Our next joint chapter – the Insight Module

The IEA recognises the tremendous efforts made by all governments to collect valuable energy R&D data for the benefit of analysts and governments worldwide. The IEA will continue to help connect and coordinate countries to share experiences and deepen their collaboration. Building on this work, the IEA stands ready to support MI members by taking an active role in setting the framework for the Insight Module with the aim to improve R&D data and provide sharper insights on clean energy innovation policies.