The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the first green shoots of an energy revolution are starting to appear.
According to the IEA’s latest study, Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) 2010, global investment in renewable electricity generation reached an all-time high of $112 billion in 2008 and remained largely stable in 2009.
Automakers are releasing hybrid and all-electric vehicles and we could see more than five million such vehicles on the road over the next decade.
Funding for research, development and deployment also increased by a third between 2005 and 2008, reversing the decline that had begun in the 1980s.
And the rate of energy efficiency improvement in OECD countries has increased to nearly 2% a year – more than double the rate a decade ago.
“For several years, the IEA has been calling for an energy revolution to tackle climate change and enhance energy security and economic development. For the first time, we see early indications that such a revolution is under way,” says executive director Nobuo Tanaka.
The report emphasises the gulf between a business-as-usual approach, which would see energy-related CO2 emissions double by 2050, and the IEA’s ‘BLUE Map’ scenario of a ‘least-cost’ path to halve emissions by 2050 compared with 2005 levels.
To achieve this – and limit long-term temperature rise to 2-3°C – Tanaka says a rapid large-scale deployment of low-carbon technologies is needed, decarbonising the energy system and leading to a ‘new age’ of electrification.
Increasing energy efficiency will be of the highest priority, says the IEA, offering as it does a low-cost and by and large existing means of actually reducing consumption.
The cost of the ‘revolution’ – the IEA’s BLUE Map scenario – will be an extra $46 trillion over the business-as-usual model, but this could be offset by fuel savings of an estimated $112 trillion.
Fast-growing economies – such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Russia – will have to become major technology developers and cut their own emissions by around 30%, while OECD nations will have to make major cuts in emissions of 70-80% compared to current levels.
“This shift is vital to ensuring a truly global energy technology revolution,” says Tanaka.
For further information:
Nuclear power could triple by 2050, says IEA (16-Jun)
EU over half way to 20% cut in emissions by 2020 (7-Jun)
UK 2020 renewables and emissions targets: nearly but not quite (24-May)
Solar power could provide 25% of global electricity by 2050, says IEA (14-May)
Global investment of $10.5 trillion in low-carbon technology needed, says IEA (11-Nov 2009)
06 July 2010