“The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven told the CEM, which brings together ministers representing countries responsible for four-fifths of global greenhouse-gas emissions. “Despite much talk by world leaders, and despite a boom in renewable energy over the last decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago.”
To illustrate this inertia, the report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, introduces the Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII), which shows how much carbon dioxide is emitted, on average, to provide a given unit of energy. The ESCII stood at 2.39 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of oil equivalent (tCO2/toe) in 1990, and had barely moved by 2010, holding at 2.37 tCO2/toe.
“...The overall lack of progress should serve as a wake-up call,” Ms. Van der Hoeven said.
While noting that progress remains slow for a majority of technologies, the IEA’s report did find some recent, positive signs.
From 2011 to 2012, solar photovoltaic and wind technologies grew by 42% and 19%, respectively, despite ongoing economic and policy turbulence in the sector. Emerging economies are also stepping up efforts in clean energy. Brazil, China and India were among the countries that enhanced policy support for the renewable electricity sector in 2012, for example. Advanced vehicle technologies also progressed well, with hybrid-electric vehicles breaking the 1 million annual sales mark. Electric vehicle sales also more than doubled to reach 110 000 vehicles.
Ms. Van der Hoeven emphasised the ongoing, significant potential of energy efficiency measures. She noted that while there has been progress in improving the fuel economy of passenger vehicles, a wide difference in standards among countries remains, and very few regions currently have comprehensive fuel economy measures in place.
The report gives policy recommendations, technology by technology. At the highest level, it stresses that the true cost of energy must be reflected in consumer prices, through carbon pricing and the phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies. Technologies like electric vehicles, wind and solar will need support for several years more, but policies should be flexible and transparent. More stringent and broader energy performance standards, building codes and fuel economy standards can drive energy efficiency.
“The CEM governments represent 4.1 billion people and three-quarters of global GDP,” Ms. Van der Hoeven said. “Together, they have the power to set the clean energy transition in motion, and now it is time for them to use it.”