World Energy Crunch Might Require Technological Solution

Policy proposals include greater efficiency in industry, increased nuclear power generation and making greater use of renewables and biofuels.

World demand for energy is set to grow by more than 50% in the next 25 years on current trends, meaning that effective action on climate change is likely to require a technological breakthrough, the International Energy Agency warned on Nov. 7.

In a stark report assessing global energy needs to 2030, the IEA highlighted seemingly irreconcilable forces that are set to push carbon dioxide emissions higher at a time when urgent action is needed to tackle global warming. "Global primary energy demand (at current trends) is projected to increase by just over half between now and 2030, an average annual rate of 1.6%," the IEA said in its report, World Energy Outlook 2006.

The IEA research was a response to G8 leaders who had asked the energy watchdog at a summit in Gleneagles, Scotland last year to advise them on "alternative energy scenarios and strategies aimed at clean, clever and competitive energy future." Delivering its verdict, the IEA said that current policy proposals could succeed in slowing growth in carbon emissions and energy demand. But it added that "formidable hurdles" existed for policymakers and the world would probably still need a technological solution. "In practice, technological breakthroughs that change profoundly the way we produce and consume energy will almost certainly be required as well."

Current policy proposals range from promoting greater efficiency in industry, increased nuclear power generation, making greater use of renewables and biofuels to increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks. If all of these proposals were implemented, global energy demand would be 37% higher in 2030 instead of more than 5% forecast on current trends.

Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide are set to rise by 55% by 2030 compared with 2004 levels on current trends. But if all the new energy policy proposals were adopted, carbon dioxide emissions would be 16% lower than this level.

Even the limited current policy proposals assessed by the IEA were "bound to encounter resistance from some industry and consumer interests," the energy watchdog said, before urging policymakers to take bold action to sway public opinion.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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