Azara Blog: IEA predicts massive increase in energy demand by 2030

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Date published: 2007/11/07

The BBC says:

The global demand for energy is set to grow inexorably through to 2030 if governments do not change their policies, warns a top energy official.

Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said such a rise would threaten energy security and accelerate climate change.

He said energy needs in 2030 could be more than 50% above current levels, with fossil fuels still dominant.
The World Energy Outlook 2007 report warned that much of the increased demand for energy would be met by coal.

As a result, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could rise by 57% - from 27 giga-tonnes in 2005 to 42 giga-tonnes in 2030, it said.

Even in the report's "alternative policy scenario", which takes into account the governments' proposed action to save energy and cut emissions, CO2 levels are set to rise by 25%.

But it offered a glimmer of hope within its "450 Stabilisation" case study.

It described a notional strategy for governments to stabilise CO2 levels in the atmosphere at about 450 parts per million (ppm), which some scientists and policy makers suggest is an acceptable concentration.

"Emissions savings come from improved efficiency in industry, buildings and transport, switching to nuclear power and renewables, and the widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage," the report said.

This approach would see global emissions peak in 2012 then fall sharply below 2005 levels by 2030, it suggested.

But it added: "Exceptionally quick and vigourous policy action by all countries, and unprecedented technological advances, entailing substantial costs, would be needed to make this case a reality."

The IEA at least has no particular axe to grind, so their analysis can be taken at face value. This does not mean it is correct. Energy is getting a lot more expensive, which will eventually hit demand. But the idea that emissions will peak in 2012 seems fanciful, unless they believe that the world economy is going to have a serious, long-lasting crash by then (and you never know), or unless they believe that increased energy prices are going to hit demand pretty quickly.

Their stated reasons for a peak in 2012 are not very plausible. Carbon capture and storage is a technology in its infancy. In many countries nuclear power is off the political agenda, and in any case it takes a decade and more to get such plants off the ground. Most buildings that will exist in 2012 already exist today, and there is not that much scope for massive improvements in efficiency on this front in such a short period. And similarly with transport, and even industry. Five years is the blink of an eye in terms of changing energy demand patterns.

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