Apr. 8, 2011, Washington, D.C. – The global
use of clean energy technologies has increased rapidly over the past decade,
but that growth has been outpaced by fossil fuels, an International Energy
Agency (IEA) report says. The report is IEA’s first Clean Energy Progress
Report. Coal was the fastest-growing energy source in 2000–2010, meeting 47% of
new energy demand, IEA says.
Renewables' share of global energy
production fell to 18.5% in 2008, from 19.5% in 1990, according to the report,
largely because of slow growth in large hydroelectric generation. Renewable
energy growth has been driven almost entirely by policy support such as
mandatory targets and tax incentives for production or investment. However,
although renewable energy receives about $57 billion in government subsidies
(in 2009 dollar terms), fossil-fuel consumption subsidies are about $312
billion globally, IEA finds.
To achieve renewable energy and greenhouse
gas reduction targets, “aggressive clean energy policies are required,
including the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and implementation of
transparent, predictable, and adaptive incentives for cleaner, more efficient
energy options,” IEA says. It voiced concern about government austerity
measures, which could cut funding for renewable development at a time when
increased support is necessary to achieve long-term growth.
According to IEA, “Achieving sustainable
energy goals will require a doubling of all renewable energy use by 2020,”
which suggests that wind generation will have to grow by 17%/year and solar by
22%/year. IEA says solar photovoltaic (PV) generation was the most rapidly
growing technology in the past decade, with estimates showing a cumulative
installed capacity of solar PV of roughly 40 GW at the end of 2010, up from 1.5
GW in 2000. Roughly 17 GW was added in 2010 alone, with about half of that in
China, which only began installing wind in
2005, has become the world's largest domestic wind market. Although China added
about 17 GW of wind in 2010, the lag to connect the wind generation to the grid
means it only accounts for about 1% of the country's total electric generation,
The United States had the highest growth
rate in using biomass, biogas, and biofuels in the past decade, but globally
only about 20% of biomass used to generate heat is used on an industrial scale.
“Most biomass is currently used for traditional small-scale domestic heating
and cooking, mostly in developing countries,” IEA says. The United States
invests more to develop biomass and biofuels than any other country, spending
$2.6 billion in 2005–2010 on biomass technologies and $189 million in 2010 on
biofuels. The United States broadly invested more federal dollars on renewable
energy research and development, spending $4.9 billion in 2005–2010, or about
40% of all global investment. U.S. investment in the last half of the decade
was up significantly; the country spent only $1.4 billion in 2000–2005.
IEA says a “clean energy revolution” is
necessary to de-link greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth and increase
global energy security. Although such a revolution calls for “unprecedented
investments” in clean, low-carbon technologies, those investments will provide
“equally unprecedented benefits,” according to IEA, which estimates a 10%/year
internal rate of return through fuel savings alone.
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