The world’s energy system is lagging significantly in terms of fulfilling the climate goals established by the Paris Agreement, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which blamed lack of policy support by governments for the failure.
A report by the IEA has found that only three out of 26 assessed technologies are on track to meet climate targets. This means barely one-tenth of renewable energy technology is ready to meet long-term climate change targets.
Nearly 200 countries agreed last year in Paris to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century and to limit a global average rise in temperature to “well below” two degrees C.
However governments have failed to adequately support large-scale deployment, and the agency says stronger policy signals are needed.
The three technologies that are on track are electric vehicles, energy storage and mature variable renewables (solar PV and onshore wind).
The IEA said the world’s power sector could reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2060 under a goal to limit the rise in global temperature to two degrees C. The energy sector could even become carbon neutral by 2060 to limit future temperature increase to 1.75 degrees C by 2100, if technology innovations are “pushed to the limit”.
“But to do so would require an unprecedented level of policy action and effort from all stakeholders,” the report added.
While nuclear power capacity additions totalled 10 GW in 2016, the report assessed that there needs to be a capacity addition of 20 GW annually for it to make its optimal contribution.
Renewables generally have been growing by 30 per cent annually but its recommended that it needs to grow by 40 per cent annually between 2020 and 2025.
At the same time as increases in those two areas, carbon dioxide emissions from coal must decline by around 3 per cent a year to 2025, led by the retirement in the least efficient technologies and a decline in coal generation not equipped with carbon capture and storage after 2020, the IEA said.
The IEA and China also hosted a high-level gathering of energy ministers and industry leaders in Beijing yesterday to affirm the importance of carbon capture.
The energy ministers of Canada, China, Norway, and the United States, as well as heads of delegation from Australia and the European Commission, along with leaders from the industry and key organisations, were invited to review how to increase collaboration in order to drive further deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).
Ministers and panellists discussed the factors that have attracted investment to current CCUS projects and highlighted the importance of identifying where these factors could converge to replicate recent success with CCUS projects.
The discussion centred on the vital role of CCUS in reducing carbon dioxide emissions while ensuring energy security. Participants acknowledged the importance of revenue streams, such as from CO2 utilisation, available transport and storage options, and political leadership in securing investment in CCUS projects.
Hosting the event, Dr Fatih Birol (pictured), the IEA Executive Director, said the IEA would undertake detailed analysis of the conditions and factors that have led to the investment in existing CCUS projects, and how they may be replicated elsewhere.
The countries represented in the discussion host 19 of the 22 projects currently in operation or construction globally. China, the host of the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM 8), recently announced the beginning of construction on the country’s first large-scale CCUS project in Shaanxi Province.
US Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, “I don’t believe you can have a real conversation about clean energy without including CCUS.”
“We have already seen the success of projects like Petra Nova in Texas, which is the world’s largest post-combustion carbon-capture system,” Mr. Perry said. “Our experience with CCUS proves that you can do the right thing for the environment and the economy too.”
The system at Petra Nova can capture 1.6 million tons of CO2 each year from an existing coal-fired power plant unit, a capture rate of up to 90 per cent from a supplied slipstream of flue gas. By using CO2 captured from the plant, oil production at West Ranch oilfield is expected to increase from around 500 barrels per day to up to 15,000 barrels per day.
“Our analysis consistently shows that CCUS is a critical part of a complete clean energy technology portfolio that provides a sustainable path for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring energy security,” said Dr Birol. “Investment has flowed to CCUS projects where there is a confluence of factors which constitute a viable business case. We need to find more such opportunities, where a commercial case for CCS can be built with reasonably modest, well targeted public interventions.”
Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s Minister for Environment and Energy, said: “Gas and coal will continue to play a significant role in both the global energy mix and industrial processes for the foreseeable future. The Australian Government is taking a technology-neutral approach to providing an affordable and reliable energy system as we transition to lower emissions future; and we recognise that carbon capture and storage has an important role to play. In recognition of this, last week the Australian Government announced it will broaden the mandate of the Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to support investment in CCS technologies.”
The discussion was held ahead of CEM8 in Beijing, a key forum for international collaboration on clean energy technologies.
The World Nuclear Association has welcomed the report’s findings. Agneta Rising, said, “The IEA’s report is clear: nuclear needs to be a major source of clean energy, reliably supplying the world’s future requirements,” adding that how nuclear energy can provide 25 per cent of the world’s electricity by 2050, a target that would require the construction of 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity.
“The IEA’s more ambitious scenario requires deployment of largely untested technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, on a massively expanded scale. Nuclear energy has a proven track record in supplying clean energy and can be expanded quickly.”