By - Jim Vess

Climate and energy policies around the world are falling short in meeting goals, IEA says

Energize Weekly, November 20, 2019

Even if all the commitments made by countries to cut carbon emissions and provide dependable energy were enacted, the world would still fall far short of having clean, reliable energy in 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA placed all those emission and energy plans into a “Stated Policies Scenario” in its 2019 World Energy Outlook and concluded that they are “still well off track from the aim of a secure and sustainable energy future.”

The scenario has energy demand rising by 1 percent a year to 2040 with solar photovoltaic (PV) supplying more than half of the growth and natural gas, bolstered by increased trade in liquefied natural gas (LNG), providing a third. Oil demand flattens, and coal falls.

In a “Current Policies Scenario” where no new policies are implemented, energy demand rises 1.3 percent a year to 2040 “resulting in strains across all aspects of energy markets.”

The push in renewable technologies (wind generation also expands) is, however, “insufficient to offset the effects of an expanding global economy and growing population,” the agency said.

The “Stated Policies Scenario,” the report said, “describes a world in 2040 where hundreds of millions still go without access to electricity, where pollution-related premature deaths remain around today’s elevated levels and where CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions would lock in severe impacts from climate change.”

To meet the environmental and energy needs of the world, nations will have to increase programs and policies to sharply cut emissions, improve energy efficiency and add more clean generation. Carbon-capture technology to add to coal-burning power plants will also be necessary.

Promoting the efficient design, use and recycling of materials such as steel, aluminum, cement and plastics is another key element. “This increased ‘material efficiency’ could be enough in itself to halt the growth in emissions from these sectors,” the report said.

The IEA placed all those initiatives into what it called a “Sustainable Development Scenario,” which the agency said could be a guide for policymakers.

“What comes through with crystal clarity in this year’s World Energy Outlook is there is no single or simple solution to transforming global energy systems,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said in a statement.

“Many technologies and fuels have a part to play across all sectors of the economy. For this to happen, we need strong leadership from policy makers, as governments hold the clearest responsibility to act and have the greatest scope to shape the future,” Birol said.

One important element in the sustainable scenario is a “sharp pick-up” in energy efficiency improvements to about 3 percent a year.

Energy efficiency improvements have been declining over the past few years with just a 1.2 percent improvement in 2018 – about half the rate in 2010. The IEA said this is “a cause for deep concern.”

“This reflects a relative lack of new energy efficiency policies and of efforts to tighten existing measures,” the agency said.

Electricity demand rises of the next 20 years in the sustainable scenario with it overtaking oil as the main energy source by 2040.

In the “Stated Policies Scenario,” wind and solar provide more than half the new electricity generation by 2040. In the sustainable scenario, they provide almost all the new generation.

“Putting electricity systems on a sustainable path will require more than just adding more renewables,” the report said. “The world also needs to focus on the emissions that are ‘locked in’ to existing systems. Over the past 20 years, Asia has accounted for 90 percent of all coal-fired capacity built worldwide, and these plants potentially have long operational lifetimes ahead of them.”

The IEA report looked at three options for dealing with emissions from existing coal-fired power plants: retrofitting them with carbon-capture technology; repurposing the units to focus on providing system adequacy and flexibility; or retiring them early.

In the oil markets, the increased output from U.S. shale plays is the big story, the report said, with U.S. production becoming the largest in the world for oil and natural gas by 2025.

Even with those increases, the world will still rely heavily on Middle East oil supplies, the report said.

“Shale and solar PV show that rapid change is possible, but the direction and speed is set by governments,” the IEA said.

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