20th Sep 2018

Global energy body voices concern on security, CO2

  • Coal plant in Germany: the CO2-heavy fuel will still be 25% of the global energy mix in 2040 (Photo: Frank Kehren)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has voiced concern on security of supply, greenhouse gas emissions, and the future of nuclear power over the next two decades.

“The global energy system is in danger of falling short of the hopes and expectations placed upon it”, the Paris-based intergovernmental body said in its annual World Energy Outlook, published on Wednesday (12 November).

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The report contains projections up to 2040.

It expects world energy demand to increase by 37 percent by that year. Most of the growth in demand will come from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

“By 2040, the world’s energy supply mix divides into four almost-equal parts: oil, gas, coal, and low-carbon sources.”

Low-carbon sources include renewable energy like wind and solar power, but also nuclear power.

Energy security is under pressure because of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and because unrest in the Middle East “has rarely been greater [than] since the oil shocks in the 1970s”.

The IEA also raised the alarm on the world's ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which feed global warming.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates the world cannot emit more than 1,000 gigatonnes of CO2 if it is to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

“This entire budget [of 1,000 gigatonnes] will be used up by 2040 in our central scenario”, the IEA noted.

“Since emissions are not going to drop suddenly to zero once this point is reached, it is clear that the 2 °C objective requires urgent action to steer the energy system onto a safer path.”

Otherwise, the world is “on a path consistent with a long-term global average temperature increase of 3.6 °C”.

At the end of 2015 in Paris, world leaders hope to reach agreement on binding targets to reduce greenhouse emissions.

But the IEA remarked that the “point of departure for the climate negotiations, due to reach a climax in 2015, is not encouraging”.

It also said that by 2040 nuclear power generation in the EU will fall by 10 percent and “the challenge to replace the shortfall in generation [with alternative sources] is especially acute in Europe”.

Several European countries are phasing out nuclear plants.

Of the 434 facilities which were operational last year, almost 200 will be shut down in the coming 26 years.

The decommissioning will cost over $100 billion, the IEA calculates, advising governments and companies to start budgeting for the changes.

“Considerable uncertainties remain about these costs, reflecting the relatively limited experience to date in dismantling and decontaminating reactors and restoring sites for other uses”.

The International Energy Agency was founded 40 years ago, after the Middle East oil crises. It has 29 member states, 20 of them EU members.


EU urgently needs real energy union

Rising risks from beyond our borders and challenges from within can be tackled in a comprehensive approach to the EU's energy needs.

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