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Governments must promote renewable and nuclear energy

The 2011 edition
of the IEA’s “World
Energy Outlook.”
Paris, France — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 09 November 2011 – Energy will become “viciously more expensive” and polluting if governments don’t promote renewable and nuclear power in the next two decades instead of burning coal, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Global demand for energy is set to increase 40% by 2035, the Paris-based agency said here in its annual World Energy Outlook report. Consumption will rise 1.3% a year to 16.96 billion metric tonnes of oil equivalent in 2035, spurred by China and other emerging economies, the IEA said.

The worst atomic accident in 25 years at the Fukushima plant in Japan on 11 March led Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, to close eight of its 17 reactors permanently. Nuclear plants generate power continuously while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases. Without nuclear, keeping world temperature gains at 2 degrees Celsius will cost an extra US$1.5 trillion through 2035, the agency said.

“If we do not have an international legally binding agreement soon, and if it doesn’t give a boost to a major investment wave of clean energy technologies by 2017, the door to 2 degrees will be closed forever,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist in Paris, said in an interview. A shift away from nuclear power “would definitely be bad news for energy security, for climate change and also for the economics of the electricity price.”

Investment in energy infrastructure of US$1.5 trillion a year is needed to meet projected demand through 2035, and even then, “the cost of energy will increase,” Birol said.

Global coal demand will advance to 4.1 billion tonnes of oil equivalent from 3.29 billion tonnes in 2009, or a 24% rise over the forecast period, under the IEA’s base case scenario.

 “Prospects for coal are especially sensitive to energy policies, notably in China, which today accounts for almost half of global demand,” the IEA said. “More efficient power plants and carbon capture and storage technology could boost prospects for coal, but the latter still faces significant regulatory, policy and technical barriers.”

The use of nuclear energy will increase to 1.2 billion tonnes of oil equivalent by 2035, or 72%, from 703 million tonnes in 2009, the IEA added.

Renewable energies, excluding hydro power, are projected to account for 15% of power generation in 2035 from 3% in 2009, the agency said. The use of renewables will be backed by a five-fold increase in subsidies to US$180 billion, driven largely by China and the European Union.

“Growth, prosperity and rising population will inevitably push up energy needs over the coming decades, but we cannot continue to rely on insecure and environmentally unsustainable uses of energy,” IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement.