Following up Andrew McKillop’s recent post on the IEA Deputy Director’s ludicrous assertion that there would “probably” be a 6C rise in global average temperature by 2050, I culled this from Wikipedia’s page on the IEA:
The IEA Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (PVPS) is one of the collaborative R&D Agreements established within the IEA and, since its establishment in 1993, the PVPS participants have been conducting a variety of joint projects in the application of photovoltaic conversion of solar energy into electricity.
According to a 2011 projection by the International Energy Agency, solar power generators may produce most of the world’s electricity within 50 years, dramatically reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment. Cedric Philibert, senior analyst in the renewable energy division at the IEA said: “Photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants may meet most of the world’s demand for electricity by 2060 — and half of all energy needs — with wind, hydropower and biomass plants supplying much of the remaining generation”. “Photovoltaic and concentrated solar power together can become the major source of electricity,” Philibert said.
In 2011, IEA chief economist Faith Birol said the current $409 billion equivalent of fossil fuel subsidies are encouraging a wasteful use of energy, and that the cuts in subsidies is the biggest policy item that would help renewable energies get more market share and reduce CO2 emissions.
In November 2011, an IEA report entitled Deploying Renewables 2011 said “renewable energy technology is becoming increasingly cost competitive and growth rates are in line to meet levels required of a sustainable energy future”. The report also said “subsidies in green energy technologies that were not yet competitive are justified in order to give an incentive to investing into technologies with clear environmental and energy security benefits”. The renewable electricity sector has “grown rapidly in the past five years and now provides nearly 20 percent of the world’s power generation”, the IEA said. The IEA’s report disagreed with claims that renewable energy technologies are only viable through costly subsidies and not able to produce energy reliably to meet demand. “A portfolio of renewable energy technologies is becoming cost-competitive in an increasingly broad range of circumstances, in some cases providing investment opportunities without the need for specific economic support,” the IEA said, and added that “cost reductions in critical technologies, such as wind and solar, are set to continue.”
For the first time in 2012, an annual medium-term report which analyses the renewable energy sector will be published by the IEA. This publication on renewable energy – “which is now the fastest growing sector of the energy mix and accounts for almost a fifth of all electricity produced worldwide – will join annual medium-term reports on oil, gas and coal, which the IEA already produces”. With this report, “renewable energy takes its rightful seat at the table alongside the other major energy sources”.
Ahead of the launch of the 2009 World Energy Outlook, the British daily newspaper The Guardian, referring to an unidentified senior IEA official, alleged that the agency was deliberately downplaying the risk of peak oil under pressures from the USA. According to a second unidentified former senior IEA official it was “imperative not to anger the Americans” and that the world has already entered the ‘peak oil’ zone.
The Guardian also referred to a team of scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden who studied the 2008 World Energy Outlook and concluded the forecasts of the IEA were unattainable. According to their peer-reviewed report, oil production in 2030 would not exceed 75 million barrels per day (11.9×106 m3/d) while the IEA forecasts a production of 105 million barrels per day (16.7×106 m3/d). The lead author of the report, Dr. Kjell Aleklett, has claimed that IEA’s reports are “political documents”.
So, the IEA is steering us towards a solar PV future. But how realistic is this? Is there a ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ syndrome at work here? Or will fracking prove successful and stave off ‘peak production’ of fossil derived fuels? Conflicting signals are seen on the solar front. Big western solar companies have been going under recently, yet a recent Deutsche Bank report paints a rosy picture for the future of the technology. Will the unemployed be conscripted to clean thousands of acres of solar panels instead of working illegally in car washes by 2020? Andrew McKillop gives us his personal take on the ‘sustainable energy’ question in a new article: What was Sustainable Energy?.
The energy question is supra-national, and looms large as many countries face acute bottlenecks in energy production. The IEA plans will be revealed in a report later this year. But where is the public consultation phase? Clearly the IEA is a big player in international realpolitik, yet the very existence of the organisation hardly hits the radar of the average man in the street. Deutsche Bank is also a big player in the renewables sector, and has produced some heavily biased reports on climate in the past to underpin it’s large green investments portfolio. Private capital with agendas for renewables, opaque power relations between supra-national entities such as the IEA and governments, revolving doors at energy ministries, looming energy production shortfalls in developed countries…
Time for more Talkshop debate on the energy issue.