Renewables Are Growing, But Greenhouse Emissions Will Continue To Rise

The International Energy Agency’s annual report into fuel supply and demand shows a pickup in the rate of growth for wind and solar power.

But that’s not enough to curtail greenhouse gas pollution, which is on track to grow through 2040. The findings are a blow to the international effort to rein in climate change and contrast with expanding awareness of the impact humans are having on the environment.

The IEA’s report tracks the different paths the world can take, with government policies shaping the energy industry. While clean energy leaves some reason for optimism, the gap is widening between what scientists say is necessary to protect the environment and how industry’s energy needs are evolving.

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1. Offshore wind is booming …

The global market for offshore wind turbines grew 30% from 2010 to 2018, driven primarily by northern Europe. Now, the technology is entering new regions. China added more capacity last year than anyone else. By 2040 the offshore wind market will become a $1 trillion business, the IEA says. Wind and solar power will push renewables past coal in terms of share of the power market by the middle of the next decade. By 2040, those clean energy sources will provide more than half of the world’s total electricity.

2. … but emissions continue to rise

Global carbon dioxide emissions rose for a second year, and the outlook is for continued increase to 2040 unless governments take radical action to hit targets set out in the Paris Agreement. The report shows that efforts to shift the world away from the most polluting fuels are moving too slowly. The developing world’s thirst for energy is also lifting consumption of coal and other fossil fuels, pushing more pollution into the atmosphere.

3. Coal is the dominant power generation fuel

Global coal demand rose for a second consecutive year in 2018, with three-quarters of that demand coming from Asia Pacific. If global coal policies remain unchanged, then demand will keep expanding for two decades, the IEA said. However, growth will flatten out in that period if countries implement the promises they have already made. Over the past 20 years, Asia has accounted for 90% of all coal-fired capacity built worldwide and many of those new plants still have three decades of burning the dirtiest fossil fuel.

4. Oil demand slows

Global oil demand will hit a plateau around 2030 as the use of more efficient cars and electric vehicles ends an expansion that dominated the past century. While the IEA won’t call “peak demand” yet, the stagnation points toward major changes in the oil industry ahead.

5. Quicker growth for natural gas

The world’s natural gas will deliver more of the fuel by tanker than pipeline as China’s thirst for it has grown by more than a third in the past two years. Demand for gas is set to grow four times faster than oil through 2040. By then, China will import twice as much LNG as India. The share of gas in China’s energy mix will rise to 13% by 2040 from 7% now.


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