Clapping with One Hand: IEA Applauds Clean, Renewable Energy Progress, Urges Energy Officials to Move Faster

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Applauding the progress being made in developing and deploying renewable energy and clean technologies, the International Energy Agency (IEA), in its latest annual report, also says that they are not being deployed fast enough.

Presented to energy ministers, secretaries and members of leading private and public sector renewable energy and clean tech organizations at the 3rd Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in London, the IEA, in its “Tracking Clean Energy Progress” report, highlights rapidly growing use of renewable energy and clean technologies in nations around the world. It concludes, however, that progress isn’t fast enough to meet international targets for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, mitigating climate change and thereby providing a secure energy system.

“We have a responsibility and a golden opportunity to act,” said IEA Deputy Executive Director Ambassador Richard H Jones. “Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs; under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020, and almost double by 2050. This would likely send global temperatures at least 6°C higher. Such an outcome would confront future generations with significant economic, environmental and energy security hardships – a legacy that I know none of us wishes to leave behind.”

Rapid Progress to Date Not Rapid Enough

According to the IEA’s clean energy report, onshore wind power has grown at an average annual 27% rate in the past decade. Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy has grown at a 42% CAGR (constant annual growth rate). During the past three years, the IEA notes, overall solar PV systems costs have been reduced 75% in some countries.

While these provide substantial evidence that given the right mix of public and private sector incentives and regulations, societies are capable of making a rapid transition away from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy, progress to date isn’t happening fast enough to avoid the effects rapid, human-induced climate change are likely to bring about, the IEA states.

The IEA urged government energy agency leaders and other CEM attendees to pursue “aggressive policy action to take full advantage of the benefits offered by clean energy technologies.” IEA Ambassador Jones emphasized the pivotal role the 23-nation CEM organization can play in doing so.

“The ministers meeting this week in London have an incredible opportunity before them,” he continued. “It is my hope that they heed our warning of insufficient progress, and act to seize the security, economic and environmental benefits that a clean-energy transition can bring.”

Nearly half of all new coal-fired power plants under construction are still being built with inefficient emissions and environmental protection technology, while the rate of investment in developing carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) is similarly insufficient. Likewise, “vehicle fuel efficiency improvement is slow, and significant untapped energy-efficiency potential remains in the building and industry sectors,” according to the IEA report.

IEA Recommendation #1: Level the Energy Production Playing Field

The IEA makes three overarching clean energy policy recommendations in order to further boost clean, renewable energy development and adoption:

  • First, level the playing field for clean energy technologies. This means ensuring that energy prices reflect the “true cost” of energy – accounting for the positive and negative impacts of energy production and consumption;
  • Second, unlock the potential of energy efficiency, the “hidden fuel” of the future. Making sure that energy is not wasted and that it is used in the best possible way is the most cost-effective action and must be the first step of any policy aimed at building a sustainable energy mix’
  • Finally, accelerate energy innovation and public support for research, development and demonstration. This will help lay the groundwork for private sector innovation, and speed technologies to market.

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