IEA: Clean Energy Trails Coal Big Time

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released its first clean energy progress report which gauges clean energy deployment at the global level and makes recommendations to individual countries based on its findings. The good news is that clean energy use is on the rise. The bad news is that the world still relies heavily on fossil fuels, particularly coal, to generate power and, as a result, carbon emissions are not being reduced as quickly as some would like.

The report states that, over the past decade, coal was responsible for meeting 47% of the world’s electricity needs. This fact significantly overshadows the renewable energy progress that has been made over the same period of time, despite reports of rapid growth in the renewable energy sector and considerable efforts at increasing energy efficiency.

Carbon Emmissions

image via Wikipedia

According to the IEA, wind and solar power were the big winners out of all renewable energy efforts. For example, in the year 2000 there were just three countries with sizeable domestic solar power markets-now there are ten. Wind power also surged forward. In 2000, wind power was providing just 17 gigawatts of power globally. Today, that number is up to 195 gigawatts. Still, the report shows that renewable electricity generation since 1990 grew an average of 2.7% per year, which is less than the 3% growth seen for total electricity generation. That being the case, the report says that “reaching the goal of halving global energy-related CO2 emissions by 2050 will require a doubling of all renewable generation use by 2020 from today’s level.”

It will also require that the world tackle the fossil fuel reliance issue and get down to business addressing CO2 emissions. The report indicates that turning to less carbon intensive fuels, such as natural gas, will help but the real work that needs to be done is in heavy implementation of carbon capture and storage systems (CCS). IEA research shows that to cut energy related CO2 emissions down by half, around 100 large-scale CCS projects will be needed by 2020, and over 3,000 by 2050, which is a big step up from the 5 large-scale CCS projects in operation today.

For more information, the entire “Clean Energy Progress Report” is available here.

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