The Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation assesses the ways in which clean energy innovation can be significantly accelerated to achieve net-zero emissions while enhancing energy security in a timeframe compatible with international climate and sustainable energy goals.

This report examines how quickly energy innovation would have to move forward to bring all parts of the economy – including transport industry – to net-zero emissions by 2050 without drastic changes in our lives, explains Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.

This analysis shows that getting there would hinge on technologies that have not yet even reached the market today. The message is very clear: in the absence of much faster clean energy innovation, achieving net-zero goals in 2050 will be all but impossible.

The public and private sectors are currently falling short of delivering the innovation efforts to back up their net-zero ambitions – and the COVID-19 crisis is threatening to further undermine projects around the world focused on developing vital new energy technologies.

To help policy makers at this challenging time, the IEA report offers five key innovation principles for governments that aim to deliver net-zero emissions while enhancing energy security:

  1. Prioritise, track and adjust. Review the processes for selecting technology portfolios for public support to ensure that they are rigorous, collective, flexible and aligned with local advantages.
  2. Raise public R&D and market-led private innovation. Use a range of tools – from public research and development to market incentives – to expand funding according to the different technologies.
  3. Address all links in the value chain. Look at the bigger picture to ensure that all components of key value chains are advancing evenly towards the next market application and exploiting spillovers.
  4. Build enabling infrastructure. Mobilise private finance to help bridge the “valley of death” by sharing the investment risks of network enhancements and commercial-scale demonstrators.
  5. Work globally for regional success. Co-operate to share best practices, experiences and resources to tackle urgent and global technology challenges, including via existing multilateral platforms.

In particular, the report highlights issues requiring immediate attention in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, such as the importance of governments maintaining research and development funding at planned levels through 2025 and considering raising it in strategic areas.

It stresses that market-based policies and funding can help scale up value chains for small, modular technologies with overlapping innovation needs like new types of batteries and electrolysers, significantly advancing their progress.