IEA sees first signs of energy tech revolution

2 Jul 2010

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said it is seeing the first early signs of an energy technology revolution getting under way across the globe, but has warned that more needs to be done to achieve the necessary long-term CO2 cuts.

“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,” said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA.

Presenting the new IEA study Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) 2010 in Washington, DC, yesterday, Tanaka said the report highlights “the first green shoots” of what could become a fundamental change in the way we produce and use energy.

Global investment in renewable electricity generation, led by wind and solar, reached an all-time high of US$112bn in 2008 and remained broadly stable in 2009, despite the economic downturn, the IEA report found.

It also noted that many major car companies are adding hybrid and all-electric vehicles to their fleets and that expanded production of such vehicles, combined with the purchase incentives available in many countries, could put more than 5 million such vehicles on the road in the next 10 years.

The IEA report also said that the rate of energy efficiency improvement in OECD countries has increased to almost 2pc per year, which is more than double the rate seen in the Nineties.

Funding for low-carbon energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D) has increased by one-third between 2005 and 2008, helping to reverse a declining trend that started in the early 1980s, the IEA said, with IEA countries and many other major economies aiming to double such investments by 2015.

However, the IEA report warned that the rate of progress on these efforts is still far too low to prevent dangerous increases in global temperatures: “What we need is rapid, large-scale deployment of a portfolio of low-carbon technologies; we need a massive decarbonisation of the energy system, breaking the historical link between CO2 emissions and economic output, and leading to a new age of electrification,” Tanaka said. Noting that 1.5 billion people still lack access to electricity, he said that this adds “tremendous urgency to electrification efforts worldwide”.

According to the IEA, increased energy efficiency will become the most important fuel of the future.