Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013 says that global efforts to clean up energy sources have stalled, despite some progress in new technologies such as electric vehicles and a boom in renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind power. IEA says that global progress on clean energy remains “far below” a pathway that would meet the internationally accepted target of limiting rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Centigrade, and that public investments in energy RD&D must "at least triple."
The picture is as clear as it is disturbing: the carbon intensity of the global energy supply has barely changed in 20 years, despite successful efforts in deploying renewable energy.
I am particularly worried about the lack of progress in developing policies to drive carbon capture and storage (CCS) deployment. Without CCS, the world will have to abandon its reliance on fossil fuels much sooner – and that will come at a cost.
There is a danger, however, in focusing on individual technologies without considering the larger picture. We must invest heavily in infrastructure that improves the system as a whole. Smart grids, for example, make it easier and cheaper to replace fossil-fired power with renewables without jeopardising the reliability of the energy system.
Alongside these grim messages there are also positive developments. In 2012, sales of hybrid-electric vehicles passed the one million mark. Solar photovoltaic systems continued to be installed at a record pace, contrary to many expectations. Emerging economies are stepping up their efforts to promote and develop clean energy. The costs of most clean energy technologies fell more rapidly than anticipated. Many countries, including emerging economies, introduced or strengthened energy efficiency regulations. Given that the world’s energy demand is set to grow by 25% in the next decade, it is hard to overstate the importance of energy efficiency. The world must slow the growth of energy demand while making the energy supply cleaner.
It is time the governments of the world took the actions needed to unleash the potential of technology. Together with industry and consumers, we can put the energy system on track to a sustainable and secure energy future. We owe it to our economies, our citizens and our children.
Will the governments of the world - including the US, the world's biggest subsidizer of fossil fuels - wake up and heed the IEA’s call?