x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Move away from fossil fuels, says International Energy Agency

The adviser to 28 industrialised energy consuming nations wants a big swing away from oil and gas.

Advocating a big swing away from fossil fuels in order to limit global carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has called for "unprecedented political commitment" to implementing support policies for renewable energy. "Only a limited set of countries have implemented effective support policies for renewables, and there is a large potential for improvement," Nobuo Tanaka, the agency's executive director, said yesterday at the launch of a major IEA study in Berlin. "Several countries have made important progress in recent years in fostering renewables, with renewable energy markets expanding considerably as a result. However, much more can and should be done at the global level to address the urgent need of transforming our unsustainable energy present into a clean and secure energy future," he said. The Paris-based adviser to 28 industrialised energy consuming nations has advocated increasing the proportion of electricity generated worldwide from renewable energy sources, including hydropower, to 50 per cent from 18 per cent. This would halve global emissions of carbon dioxide, the major "greenhouse gas" that climatologists associate with global warming and climate change. "While attainable, this objective will require very strong political and financial commitments, as well as immediate action by all governments," the IEA said in its 640-page study, which compared the performance of policies promoting renewable energy from 2000 to 2005 in 35 countries. These included members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), many European states and the large emerging economies of the so-called Brics group of countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The study found wide variations in the design and effectiveness of policies in place to support the development of renewable energy, with the result that the rate of adoption of renewables has been far from uniform. "There is a large potential for improvement of policy design in most countries and considerable realisable potential across all renewable energy technologies in all the OECD countries and Brics reviewed. If effective policies were adopted in many more countries, this potential could be exploited more rapidly and to a much large extent," the IEA concluded. The study found widespread non-economic barriers to the deployment of renewable energy, including administrative hurdles, obstacles to electricity grid access and a lack of information and training. It strongly recommended that these should be removed. The IEA also stressed the need for a predictable and transparent support framework to attract investment in renewable energy and for "transitional incentives", decreasing over time, to foster technological innovation. The report further urged governments to design and adopt incentive frameworks to encourage development of a "large basket" of renewable energy technologies over time, and to give "due consideration" of the impact of large-scale penetration of renewable energy technologies on the cost efficiency and reliability of energy systems. But achieving a smooth transition towards large-scale adoption of renewable energy would also require "a profound evolution of markets", the IEA warned. "The evolved market should place an appropriate price on carbon," it said. Among the countries receiving praise in the IEA study for effective renewable energy policies were Germany, Spain, Denmark and Portugal for onshore windpower, and China for its development of solar heating at competitive cost. According to the report, solar photovoltaics - the use of solar radiation to generate electricity - is the least evolved of emerging technologies for renewable energy. The IAE estimated that OECD and Brics countries could potentially generate photovoltaic power equivalent to the UK's entire 2005 electricity output. But only one per cent of that potential had been realised in 2005. High investment costs for photovoltaic systems were to blame, the agency said. tcarlisle@thenational.ae