The Heat Is Online

IEA: World Needs a Rapid Global Energy Revolution

International Agency Urges the Start of an 'Energy Revolution'


The New York Times, June 7, 2008


BRUSSELS -- The International Energy Agency, a group that advises industrialized countries, said Friday in a report that investments of at least $45 trillion might be needed over the next half-century to prevent energy shortages and greenhouse gas emissions from slowing economic growth.


Nobuo Tanaka, the agency-s executive director, called for "immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale."


Mr. Tanaka said the world would "essentially require a new global energy revolution which would completely transform the way we produce and use energy."


The report sends a strong warning that the combination of growing demand for energy in countries like China and India, the dangers of climate change and the scarcity of resources are going to require huge shifts in the global economy.


Countries will have to overcome objections to building nuclear power plants and to storing large amounts of carbon dioxide underground or beneath the ocean floor.


The report also described emissions-cutting pathways that broadly match the advice of some leading scientists who have recommended cutting emissions in half by 2050 as a way of avoiding devastating climate change. Environment ministers from the Group of 8 industrialized countries have backed a 50 percent goal. The ministers said governments should endorse that target at a G8 summit in July.


Among the International Energy Agency's chief messages is that current policies are unsustainable with carbon dioxide emissions expected to rise 130 percent and demand for oil expected to rise 70 percent by 2050. Tanaka warned that oil demand could be five times the current production of Saudi Arabia by that time.


A crucial problem is that the rising cost of oil and gas is prompting a switch to coal, particularly in India and China. Coal is cheap and plentiful but its increasing use is contributing to the accelerating growth in emissions of carbon dioxide.


The International Energy Agency offers advice on energy policy to its 27 member nations, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and most of Europe. It recommended taking measures now that would ensure that carbon emissions are down to at least present-day levels by midcentury by, among other strategies, using energy efficiency measures and reducing emissions from power generation.


The agency also mapped out a second situation aimed at bringing emissions to half their current levels by midcentury by emphasizing technologies and strategies for weaning the world off oil. The agency estimated the cost of that process at $45 trillion, or 1.1 percent of annual global output, over the period to 2050. Investments of $100 billion to $200 billion would be needed each year over the next 10 years, rising to $1 trillion to $2 trillion each year in the coming decades.


To reach the goal of halving emissions, it said, among the most important measures would be equipping more than 50 gas and coal power plants each year with equipment to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. There would also be a need for 32 new nuclear plants each year, while the number of wind turbines would need to increase by 17,500 a year.


Other strategies included accelerating the development of solar electricity and so-called second-generation biofuels that do not compete with food for farmland.

The report acknowledged that numerous objections to these technologies would need to be overcome, in particular local opposition to building nuclear power plants and long-term nuclear waste repositories.


But the most difficult and costly step, it said, would be reducing carbon emissions from transportation at a time when the use of cars, airplanes and ships would still be growing rapidly but few technologies would exist to limit those emissions.

Even so, Mr. Tanaka sounded an optimistic note, saying that although a global energy technology revolution will be a tough challenge, it was both necessary and achievable.


(c) 2008 The New York Times Company


World must spend trillions to cut emissions: IEA

TOKYO (AFP)  The world must spend about one percent of its total income every year to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the IEA said Friday, calling for an "energy technology revolution" to curb global warming.

Unless governments act now, carbon dioxide emissions will rise by 130 percent by the middle of the century and oil demand will grow 70 percent, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report published in Tokyo.

To halve carbon dioxide emissions, the world would need to spend an additional 45 trillion US dollars on clean energy technologies by 2050 -- or 1.1 percent of average annual gross domestic product over the period, it estimated.

"There should be no doubt that meeting the target of a 50 percent cut in emissions represents a formidable challenge," Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the Paris-based IEA, told a press conference here.

"We would require immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale. It would essentially require a new global technological revolution which would completely transform the way we produce and use energy."

Halving emissions would require on average about 35 coal and 20 gas-fired power plants every year to be fitted with the technology to capture and store the carbon dioxide they belch out, the report said.

The world would also need to build an additional 32 new nuclear power plants every year along with 17,500 wind turbines.

Tanaka noted that, according to the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, such deep emission cuts are needed to limit global warming to two to three degrees C (36 to 37 degrees F) up to the end of the century.

The IEA said no single form of energy or technology could solve the problem alone, calling for increased use of carbon dioxide capture and storage, renewable and nuclear energy and better energy efficiency.

The IEA was created as an offshoot of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development amid the first oil shocks of the 1970s to monitor the oil market and energy strategies for advanced economies.

Rich and poor nations are divided on what action to take to tackle climate change, despite growing fears that global warming could cause the extinction of some plants and animals within the century and put millions of people at risk.

Rapid economic growth in emerging countries such as China and India, as well as soaring oil and gas prices, are hampering efforts to reduce consumption of coal, a high-polluting source of energy, the IEA said.

In China and India, "huge savings have got to be made in coal (consumption). That's not going to be easy," said IEA deputy executive director William Ramsay.

"Their markets are not going to easily adopt these kinds of expensive technologies," while consumers may be unhappy paying higher prices for electricity generated by clean power sources, he said.

"You can see on the streets of India now that raising the price of energy is very dangerous politically," Ramsay added.

The Indian government has faced angry protests and strikes this week over a decision to hike fuel prices.

Oil prices struck record peaks above 135 dollars last month, up five-fold since 2003 amid supply worries and rising demand in emerging economies.

The more than 600 page IEA report was released on the eve of the start of a meeting between the energy ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations as well as China, India, South Korea in northern Japan.

Together the 11 countries release 65 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming. The G8 groups Britain, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United States.