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Renewable energy push barely dents fossil fuel dependence

Coal, oil and gas still expected to contribute 85% of primary power supply by 2040

Solar and wind capacity contributes to just a fraction of total energy consumption

Unprecedented efforts to install renewable power capacity have only translated into meeting 2 per cent of global energy demand, meaning the world’s overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels shows no sign of abating.

A new report forecasts that coal, oil and gas will still contribute about 85 per cent of primary energy supply by 2040, compared with 90 per cent today, jeopardising efforts to contain the worst impacts of climate change.

Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie said 1 terawatt of installed solar and wind capacity makes up around 8 per cent of total power generation as of 2019. This equates to just a fraction of total energy consumption.

“The world risks relying on fossil fuels for decades to come,” the report said.

It forecasts carbon emissions will continue to rise, with their growth only slowing in the 2030s. This will put the world far off course in meeting the Paris climate goals, to limit global warming to well below 2C, despite growing political momentum to prevent climate change.

Energy demand, led by swelling populations in emerging economies in Asia and Africa, will increase by at least 25 per cent by 2040. Yet carbon emissions would need to halve over the same period to comply with the Paris accord, posing a huge challenge for energy systems.

“This is a wake-up call for governments and the energy industry,” said David Brown, one of the authors of the report, adding that policymakers needed to work more closely together despite some world governments such as the US moving away from multilateral diplomacy.

While there is much focus on creating renewable electricity, Mr Brown said greater attention needs to be paid to clean up sectors like aviation and shipping. Governments also need to take the lead in developing low-carbon technologies, rather than the private sector, given the scale of what needs to be achieved.

“If the world wants to decarbonise, they need to take a leap, and come up with targeted policies,” he said.

The cost of renewable power is falling rapidly and it is the fastest growing source of energy supply globally. But reaching a fuel mix whereby 50 per cent or more of energy demand is derived from solar and wind would require huge changes to infrastructure — from power storage systems to modernised grids.

Last year new installations of renewable power were flat, compared with the prior year, underscoring a slowdown in the sector because of subsidy cuts and policy changes.

The report comes just after UN secretary-general António Guterres wrote to heads of state round the world, urging them to adopt plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives,” he said on Thursday. “We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.”

Article Source: FT

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