IEA calls for clean-energy innovation

05 May 2015

"A concerted push for clean-energy innovation is the only way the world can meet its climate goals," according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The organization said governments should help boost or accelerate this transformation.

Releasing its Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 report yesterday, the IEA said the transformation to clean-energy is progressing at levels well short of those needed to limit the global increase in temperature to no more than 2°C. It called for policymakers to step up efforts to support the development and deployment of "new, ground-breaking energy technologies".

"It is now crucial for governments and other stakeholders to take effective decisions for energy sustainability. This will not be possible by relying on yesterday's technology and policies. It is lean-energy innovation that will get us on the right path."

Maria van der Hoeven,
IEA executive director

"Recent success stories, such as the rapid growth of solar photovoltaics and last year's inauguration of the world's first large-scale power station equipped with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, clearly indicate that there is significant and untapped potential for accelerating research and development in clean technologies," the IEA said.

However, it said research and development are not enough by themselves to move new technologies from ideas to commercial products. The IEA claims that governments have "a key role to play" in creating the initial market opportunities to drive investment in such technologies.

IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said, "The stakes are high for the energy sector, but it is also no stranger to profound technological change. An incredible chain of innovations in the energy sector has been at the vanguard of social and economic transformation for over a century, and it is exciting to see the progress being made by solar panels and fuel economy improvements for passenger cars today, to name but two."

"But we cannot be complacent," she added. "We are settling ourselves environmental and energy access targets that rely on better technologies. Today's annual government spending on energy research and development is estimated to be $17 billion. Tripling this level, as we recommend, requires governments and the private sector to work closely together and shift their focus to low-carbon technologies."

The IEA's main scenario - the 2 Degree Scenario (2DS) - is in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's analysis and demonstrates the actions needed in the energy sector to limit the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2°C.

In the 2DS, the share of fossil fuels in global primary energy supply drops by almost half - from 80% in 2011 to just over 40% in 2050. Energy efficiency, renewables and CCS make the largest contributions to global emissions reductions under the scenario. The IEA says that nuclear, end-use fuel switching, and power generation efficiency and fuel switching are "essential" to reach the 2DS target cost-efficiently.

Under the 2DS scenario, some 22 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity must be added annually by 2050.

Van der Hoeven said, "With current policies, energy-related carbon emissions will exceed 50 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2050 - this is about three times more than what would be required to meet the 2DS. A transformation is needed, and it is possible - but a long-term strategy based on a portfolio approach is needed to shift to a low-carbon energy mix."

"The right support to innovation coupled with effective public-private partnerships can provide the energy technology breakthroughs that could amplify or hasten the low-carbon transition," she suggested.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News