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Global clean energy efforts in need of a reboot

22nd Apr 2013

The world's clean energy efforts have stalled and are in dire need of a reboot, according to a concerning report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA criticises how world leaders have been mostly talk when it comes to clean energy and carbon reduction.

There has been little real, practical action in moving the energy industry in a cleaner direction.

While a number of new renewable technologies have been developed, not a whole lot else has been done to lower the world's carbon footprint.

"The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled," said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven to the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), a group encompassing ministers representing the 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."

The IEA's report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, introduced a way of measuring how much carbon dioxide is emitted on average to provide a given unit of energy - titled the Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII).

In 1990 the ESCII stood at 2.39 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of oil equivalent (toe), a rate which by 2010 had barely budged, at 2.37 toe.

That's an embarrassingly tiny amount of progress considering all the discussion throughout the past decade and beyond relating to how we need to clean up our environmental act.

"As world temperatures creep higher due to ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide – two thirds of which come from the energy sector – the overall lack of progress should serve as a wake-up call," said Ms. Van der Hoeven.

"We cannot afford another 20 years of listlessness. We need a rapid expansion in low-carbon energy technologies if we are to avoid a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet, but we must also accelerate the shift away from dirtier fossil fuels."

Thankfully, solar power has been a bright spark in the energy sector, with solar photovoltaic growing by 42 per cent from 2011 to 2012, despite economic and policy uncertainty.

The report emphasises that the true cost of energy must be reflected in consumer prices through measures such as carbon pricing - a topic we all know has been the cause of much controversial discussion in Australia.

Wind and solar power technologies need a whole lot more governmental support in the next few years, with flexible and transparent policies, if they are to succeed and live up to their immense potential.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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