IEA: Lomborg’s Claims About Wind & Solar Energy Are “Rubbish”

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Originally published on RenewEconomy.

Bjorn Lomborg is at it again. The notorious climate contrarian – a favourite of Australia’s Coalition government – is writing a daily blog from the Paris climate talks and his bed-rock argument is a familiar one: that wind and solar energy are pretty much useless.

In his first column for The Australian this week – he is also writing for other international papers – Lomborg repeated his claim that even under the International Energy Agency’s most optimistic scenario, wind and solar will amount to no more than 2.4 per cent of the world’s energy needs by 2040.

“The reality is that even after two decades of climate talks, we get a meagre 0.5% of our total global energy consumption from solar and wind energy, according to the leading authority, the International Energy Agency (IEA). And 25 years from now, even with a very optimistic scenario, envisioning everyone doing all that they promise in Paris, the IEA expects that we will get just 2.4 per cent from solar and wind.”

Lomborg uses these figures to reinforce his view that the world should stop adding wind farms and solar arrays, and find something else to do, mostly to spend its money on R&D. The fossil fuel industry would be grateful if they did.

RenewEconomy took issue with those claims a few weeks ago – he has been repeating pretty much the same thing for several years now – and now the IEA itself is sick of being verballed.

“That is absolute rubbish,” the IEA’s head of renewable energy Paulo Frankl told RenewEconomy at a side-event at the Paris climate talks.

Frankl point to the same graphs that RenewEconomy highlighted from the recent World Energy Outlook, the ones that show that the IEA – itself often criticised for its conservative forecasts of wind and solar  –  expects that wind and solar will provide 27 per cent of global electricity demand by 2040 in its most optimistic scenario.

This scenario is the one that limits greenhouse gases to 450ppm, which means that it is more optimistic than Lomborg’s reference of the “INDC” scenario. But he is wrong on that too.

The key is that the 27 per cent from wind and solar compares to just 12 per cent from coal. As a percentage of total energy consumption, including heat and transport, that would work out to nearly 10 per cent – not the 2.4 per cent envisaged by Lomborg.

(This is one graph below, and see this story, Bjorn Lomborg, time to check your numbers, for more on this claims and his estimates of the emission reduction pledges at the Paris climate talks).

iea-renewable-share-2040“His claims are not correct. It cannot be,” Frankl said.

And, Frankl suggested, the role of solar and wind energy may increase beyond the IEA’s forecasts.

“Today, solar PV and wind don’t help heat and transport. But we will see. An increasing electrification of heat and transport sectors will increase the role for PV.”

But Lomborg has his finger on the reset button. And Rupert Murdoch’s media is happy to hand him a megaphone. Let’s hope that the Coalition government, and their other advisors, can read a graph.

Reprinted with permission.

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Giles Parkinson

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

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