Signs of stagnation: decarbonising global energy


April 18, 2013

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Solemn news from the IEA this week. Apparently, according to the agency’s figures, efforts to decarbonise the energy sector have ‘stalled’.

Figures from the organisation’s Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index show that carbon intensity has altered little in the previous 20 years – despite the deployment of significant amounts of renewable technologies.

The agency’s analysis suggests that despite a raft of political legislation – ranging from the Rio conference in 1992 to the Kyoto talks in 1997 – the recent fall in the price of coal and its commensurate cheap technology is preventing carbon emissions in the energy sector from falling.

Concerningly, some of the biggest offenders when it comes to the use of coal for energy supply have determined programs for renewable energy. China, the world’s second largest wind market, (after the US regained the lead in 2012), continues to build coal-fired power stations at an alarming rate, although, belatedly, is looking at cleaner methods of combustion.

So what does all this mean for the wind energy market?

Well, apart from the diversion of funds into carbon heavy technologies rather than cleaner solutions, there is a danger that the renewable energy lobby becomes somewhat clouded out by the dominance of the polluting industries. It also means that the wind energy market looses the ability to frame the wider energy debate.

And for protagonists of the wind industry, it often seems to be the case that, unfortunately, any move towards tying the market into bigger themes such as climate change or energy security, tends to lead to accusations of debasing the sector to the environmental fringe.

All in all, not the most reassuring story from the week, and if anything proves that the industry needs to work harder – be it refining its technology, lowering its cost base or looking to gaining an early foot in the door in the emerging markets.

Either way, there is still much to do.

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