The world needs to invest an extra $36 trillion in clean-energy technologies between now and 2050 in order to have a shot at limiting long-term global temperature rise to 2 degrees C, the International Energy Agency said on Monday.
In its annual Energy Technology Perspectives report, the Paris-based organization said that although the global adoption of clean-energy technologies is lagging behind its goals, there is still time to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would limit climate change by the middle of the century.
The integrated use of existing technologies would help reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, decarbonize electricity, boost energy efficiency and cut emissions from major pollution sources including industry, transport and buildings.
The Tools Exist, but are Not Being Used
Much greater use of technologies including solar, wind, and biomass will help dampen surging energy demand, reduce imports and strengthen domestic economies, the report said.
Overall, nine out of ten technologies that could reduce both energy consumption and carbon emissions are failing to meet deployment objectives that would enable a transition to a low-carbon future, the IEA said.
“The bad news is that the world is failing to tap technological potential,” said Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA’s executive director, during a webinar to launch the report.
Asked whether the call for more clean-energy technology would be overshadowed by the European debt crisis and the U.S. economic slowdown, van der Hoeven said global climate concerns won’t be going away.
“It looks like there are other interests at this moment but let’s not forget the climate is still there,” she said.
Despite the huge projected clean-energy investment, it would quickly be offset by energy cost savings, the report said. It estimated that fuel savings would outweigh investment by 2025 and would amount to more than $100 trillion by 2050. The adoption of technologies on that scale would give the world an 80 percent chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C, the agency said.
While solar and onshore wind have made “sufficient progress”, the IEA lamented the lack of advance in carbon capture and storage, and to a lesser extent, offshore wind and concentrated solar power. CCS has the potential to contribute 20 percent of C02 reductions by 2050 if widely adopted, the report said.
It blamed a shortage of government funding, particularly for the development of CCS, which has no large-scale demonstration projects in electricity generation and few in industry.
In the electric-vehicle arena, governments have set ambitious targets for adoption but those are more than twice the level at which car manufacturers plan to produce the vehicles, the report said.
The agency criticized governments for cutting research, development and demonstration funding for clean-energy projects, noting that energy’s share of such funding dropped to 4 percent in 2010 from 12 percent globally in 1980.
It said the main barrier to achieving a clean-energy future is the unequal distribution of such technologies, between countries and sectors.
“Governments need to take strong and collaborative action to balance, for all, the costs and benefits of achieving a low-carbon future,” the report said.
It urged energy ministers to create a “level playing field” for energy sources by publicizing what the agency called the true costs of producing and consuming fossil fuels, and by pricing carbon emissions, and phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies.
Governments should also create an investment climate that will encourage development of clean-energy technologies by enacting predictable policies; step up efforts to promote energy efficiency, and accelerate research and development, the agency said.