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IEA Laments Failure to Deploy Clean Energy

New report from the International Energy Agency says countries must speed up use of existing technologies to address climate change.
June 11, 2012

A new report from the International Energy Agency concludes that nations have been far too slow to deploy renewable power and carbon capture technologies, and to make needed efficiency gains in buildings and vehicles.  “Our ongoing failure to realize the full potential of clean energy technology is alarming,” writes the IEA’s executive director Maria van der Hoeven, in the report’s foreword. “Too little is currently being spent on every element of the clean energy transformation pathway.”

But all is not lost, the agency argues. There remains a small and quickly shrinking window of opportunity to apply existing technologies toward meeting fast-rising global energy demand and adequately reducing emissions.

The report, the latest in a biannual series that tracks clean energy technology, focuses on a specific emissions reduction target that ensures an 80 percent chance of limiting long-term global temperature increase to 2°C.The IEA’s scenario calls for the share of total average world electricity generation from renewable sources, including hydropower, to grow from 19 percent today to 57 percent by 2050.

Since there is no avoiding the need for more fossil-fuel generation as well, the agency points out nations will need to rely heavily on carbon capture and sequestration—which will need to supply 22 percent of the necessary emissions reductions by 2050. But the lack of progress in the development and deployment of this technology is “seriously off pace.” For it to remain a viable option, the report concludes, governments must “urgently” increase financial and policy support. Currently, there are no large-scale projects capturing and storing carbon emitted from power facilities.

Over a fifth of the emissions reductions must come from improved transportation fuel economy, says the report, which calls vehicle fleet fuel economy the “single biggest opportunity” to reduce emissions from the transport sector over the next decade. Although fuel economy has recently been improving across the globe—around 1.7 percent per year—it hasn’t been fast enough, says the IEA. To meet its goals, says the agency, fuel economy of new light duty vehicles must improve by 50 percent by 2030, or 2.7 percent annually.

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