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Progress on global energy goals slow, but strong gains in countries show promise

MD Staff

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The world is not on track to meet the global energy targets for 2030 set as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, but real progress is being made in certain areas – particularly expansion of access to electricity in least developed countries, and industrial energy efficiency, according to a new report from five international agencies.

Renewable energy is making impressive gains in the electricity sector, although these are not being matched in transportation and heating – which together account for 80% of global energy consumption.

While global trends are disappointing, recent national experiences around the world offer encouraging signs. There is mounting evidence that with the right approaches and policies, countries can make substantial in clean energy and energy access, and improve the lives of millions of people.

Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report, launched at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum today, is the most comprehensive look available at the world’s progress towards the global energy targets on access to electricity, clean cooking, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The following are some of the main findings of the report. Findings are based official national-level data and measure global progress up to 2015 for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and 2016 for access to electricity and clean cooking.

Access to Electricity

  • One billion people – or 13% of the world’s population – still live without electricity. Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South Asia continue to be the areas of the world with the largest access deficits. Almost 87% of the world’s people without electricity live in rural areas.
  • The number of people gaining access to power has been accelerating since 2010, but needs to ramp up further to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030. If current trends continue, an estimated 674 million people will still live without electricity in 2030.
  • Some of the strongest gains were made in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, which all increased their electricity access rate by 3% or more annually between 2010 and 2016. Over the same period, India provided electricity to 30 million people annually, more than any other country. Sub-Saharan Africa’s electrification deficit has begun to fall in absolute terms for the first time.
  • Tens of millions of people now have access to electricity through solar home systems or connected to mini-grids. However, these remain concentrated in about a dozen pioneering countries where penetration of solar electricity can reach as much as 5-15% of the population.

Clean Cooking

  • Three billion people – or more than 40% of the world’s population – do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies. Household air pollution from burning biomass for cooking and heating is responsible for some 4 million deaths a year, with women and children at the greatest risk.
  • Parts of Asia have seen access to clean cooking outpace growth in population. These positive outcomes were driven largely by widespread dissemination of LPG or piped natural gas. In India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam, the population with access to clean cooking technologies grew by more than 1% of their population annually.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, however, population growth in recent years has outstripped the number of people gaining access to clean cooking technologies by a ratio of four to one.
  • Clean cooking continues to lag the furthest behind of all the four energy targets, due to low consumer awareness, financing gaps, slow technological progress, and lack of infrastructure for fuel production and distribution. If the current trajectory continues, 2.3 billion people will continue to use traditional cooking methods in 2030.

Energy Efficiency

  • There is mounting evidence of the uncoupling of growth and energy use. Global gross domestic product (GDP) grew nearly twice as fast as primary energy supply in 2010-15. Economic growth outpaced growth in energy use in all regions, except for Western Asia, where GDP is heavily tied to energy-intensive industries, and in all income groups. However, progress continues to be slow in low income countries, where energy intensity is higher than the global average.
  • Globally, energy intensity – the ratio of energy used per unit of GDP – fell at an accelerating pace of 2.8% in 2015, the fastest decline since 2010.  This improved the average annual decline in energy intensity to 2.2 % for the period 2010-2015. However, performance still falls short of the 2.6% yearly decline needed to meet the SDG7 target of doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.
  • Improvement in industrial energy intensity, at 2.7% per annum since 2010, was particularly encouraging, as this is the largest energy consuming sector overall. Progress in the transport sector was more modest, especially for freight transportation, and is a particular challenge for high-income countries. In low and middle-income countries, the energy intensity of the residential sector has been increasing since 2010.
  • Six of the 20 countries that represent 80 percent of the world’s total primary energy supply, including Japan and the US, reduced their annual primary energy supply in 2010-15 while continuing to grow GDP – indicating a peak in energy use. Among the large energy-intensive developing economies, China and Indonesia stood out with annual improvement exceeding 3 percent.

Renewable Energy

  • As of 2015, the world obtained 17.5% of its total final energy consumption from renewable sources, of which 9.6% represents modern forms of renewable energy such as geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. The remainder is traditional uses of biomass (such as fuelwood and charcoal).
  • Based on current policies, the renewable share is expected to reach just 21% by 2030, with modern renewables growing to 15%, falling short of the substantial increase demanded by the SDG7 target.
  • Rapidly falling costs have allowed solar and wind to compete with conventional power generation sources in multiple regions, driving the growth in the share of renewables in electricity to 22.8% in 2015. But electricity accounted for only 20% of total final energy consumption that year, highlighting the need to accelerate progress in transport and heating.
  • The share of renewable energy in transport is rising quite rapidly, but from a very low base, amounting to only 2.8% in 2015. The use of renewable energy for heating purposes has barely increased in recent years and stood at 24.8% in 2015, of which one third was from modern uses.
  • Since 2010, China’s progress in renewable energy alone accounted for nearly 30% of absolute growth in renewable energy consumption globally in 2015. Brazil was the only country among the top 20 largest energy consumers to substantially exceed the global average renewable share in all end uses: electricity, transport and heating. The UK’s share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption grew by 1% annually on average since 2010 – more than five times the global average.

Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report is a joint effort of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“It is clear that the energy sector must be at the heart of any effort to lead the world on a more sustainable pathway,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). “There is an urgent need for action on all technologies, especially on renewables and energy efficiency, which are key for delivering on three critical goals – energy access, climate mitigation and lower air pollution. The IEA is committed to leading this agenda and working with counties around the world to support clean energy transitions.”

“Falling costs, technological improvements and enabling frameworks are fueling an unprecedented growth of renewable energy, which is expanding energy access, improving health outcomes, and helping to tackle climate change, while also creating jobs and powering sustainable economic growth,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “At the same time, this tracking report is an important signal that we must be more ambitious in harnessing the power of renewable energy to meet sustainable development and climate goals, and take more deliberate action to achieve a sustainable energy future.”

“This detailed report describing the progress so far on SDG7 is a testament to the collaboration of the five international agencies on providing quality and comprehensive data and delivering a common message regarding the progress towards ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,” said Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the Statistics Division of UN DESA. “Still, there is a need for improving statistical systems that collect energy information in those countries where the most pressing energy issues remain to be addressed. Better data are needed to inform policy accurately, particularly developing countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States. For this, investments in energy statistical systems are essential.”

“The experience of countries that have substantially increased the number of people with electricity in a short space of time holds out real hope that we can reach the billion people who still live without power,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director for Energy and Extractives at the World Bank. “We know that with the right policies, a commitment to both on-grid and off-grid solutions, well-tailored financing structures, and mobilization of the private sector, huge gains can be made in only a few years. This in turn is having real, positive impacts on the development prospects and quality of life for millions of people.”

“It is unacceptable that in 2018, 3 billion people still breathe deadly smoke every day from cooking with polluting fuels and stoves. Every year, household air pollution kills around 4 million people from diseases including pneumonia, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and cancer,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, at the World Health Organization (WHO). “By expanding access to clean affordable household energy, the global community has the power to lift a terrible health burden from millions of marginalized people – in particular women and young children who face the greatest health risks from household air pollution.”

“As we take stock of progress towards the global goal on sustainable energy, this latest data clearly shows more action and political leadership is needed if we are to live up to our promise to leave no one behind,” said Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All. “To meet 2030 targets, we must make every unit of energy work harder. We need to increase investment in the technologies and business models that make electricity access affordable for everyone, place even bigger bets on the remarkable capacity of renewable energy and build big markets for clean fuels and cooking access. World leaders put the promise of leaving no one behind at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, and now is the time for that promise to become reality.”

It is the fourth edition of this report, formerly known as the Global Tracking Framework (GTF).  The report can be downloaded at http://trackingSDG7.esmap.org/  Funding for the report was provided by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).

IEA

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Energy

Five Reasons Why Countries in the Arabian Gulf are Turning to Renewables

MD Staff

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photo: IRENA

As global leaders look to renewables as a way address the growing and multi-dimensional threat of climate change, traditional energy countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are embracing renewables faster than ever before. Led by efforts in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the GCC has become crucial to global efforts in support of the energy transformation.

As the IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera said recently at the International Energy Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: “It is perfectly possible to generate sufficient cheap, reliable energy from renewable sources. Not only is it possible, but it is also our best option, as it would bring higher socio-economic benefits than business as usual, and it would allow us to effectively address climate change.”

For the Gulf, renewables bolster energy security and support economic diversification whilst offering nations rich in renewable energy resources, an opportunity to explore their full economic potential. They also offer a second chance at energy leadership. Today, much of the global cost reductions witnessed in renewables have come from the Gulf. And by driving down the price of renewables and investing abroad, the Gulf is also shaping the energy transformation in other regions.

Here are five reasons why GCC countries are turning to renewables:

Renewables are the most practical and readily available climate solution

According to an IRENA analysis, the accelerated deployment of renewable energy in the GCC region can reduce emissions of C02 by 136 million tonnes. As nations are being urged to step up their renewable energy targets to keep the world well below 2° Celsius of warming, the UAE has more than doubled its existing pledge, committing to 50 per cent clean energy by 2050 at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, resulting in even more C02 reductions than predicted.

Renewable energy is the most competitive form of power generation in the region

The business case for renewables is a central motivating factor for the Gulf’s transition towards renewables. Today, renewable energy is the most cost-competitive source of new power generation in the GCC, replacing traditional energy sources as the answer to the region’s fast-growing domestic energy demand. Recently, the 900 megawatt (MW) fifth phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the UAE received one of the lowest bids for a solar PV project in the world at 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

Renewable energy creates jobs

Long-term policy objectives seen in the GCC region, including private enterprise, education, training and investment in local skills and human resources, can facilitate the rise in the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector. IRENA’s data suggests that renewable energy can create more than 207,000 jobs in the region by 2030 with solar technologies accounting for 89 per cent of them. The proliferation of rooftop solutions alone could employ 23,000 people by 2030 in the region.

The GCC region is endowed with considerable renewable energy potential – and not just solar

The suitability analysis for solar PV technology in the GCC reveals strong potential for deployment in all GCC countries, with Oman, Saudi Arabia, and UAE as leaders. Furthermore, areas in Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia also boast good wind resources. Technologies such as biomass and geothermal power may hold additional potential but remain underexplored. According to IRENA analysis, based on targets in 2018, which, if met, could result in about 72 GW of renewable energy capacity in GCC by 2030.

Renewables save water

Water scarcity is an acute challenge in the region, with four of the six GCC countries ranking within the top 10 most water challenged on earth according to the World Resources Institute. And with one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, the region’s demand for water is expected to increase fivefold by 2050. If the GCC countries were to realise their renewable energy targets, this would lead to an estimated overall reduction of 17% and 12% in water withdrawal and consumption, respectively, in the power sectors of the region. Much of this reduction would be in Saudi Arabia and UAE, due to their plans to add significant shares of renewable energy in the power sector.

IRENA

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“Oil for development” budget, challenges and opportunities

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Iran has recently announced that its next fiscal year’s budget is going to be set with less reliance on oil revenues.

Last week, Head of the Country’s Budget and Planning Organization (BPO) Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said “In the next year’s budget – it starts on March 19, 2020 – oil revenues will be only spent for development projects and acquisition of capital asset, and not even one rial is going to go to government expenditures and other areas.”

At first glance, the idea is very appealing and it seems if the government manages to pull it off, it will be a significant step for Iran in its movement toward an oil-independent economy. However, it seems that cutting oil revenues from the budget and allocating them only to a specific part of the country’s expenditures is not going to be an easy task.

Although, BPO has already suggested various substitute sources of revenue to replace those of oil, some experts believe that the offered alternatives are not practical in the short-term.

So, how successful will the government be in executing this plan? What are the challenges in the way of this program? What are the chances for it to become fully practical next year?

To answer such questions and to have a clearer idea of the notion, let’s take a more detailed look into this [so called] ambitious program. 

The history of “oil for development”

It is not the first time that such a program is being offered in Iran. Removing oil revenues from the budget and allocating it to development projects goes way back in Iran’s modern history.

In 1927, the Iranian government at the time, decided to go through with a plan for removing oil revenues from the budget, so a bill was approved based on which oil incomes were merely allocated to the country’s development projects.

This law was executed until the year 1939 in which the plan was once again overruled due to what was claimed to be “financial difficulties”.

Since then up until recently, Iran has been heavily reliant on its oil revenues for managing the country’s expenses. However, in the past few years, and in the face of the U.S. sanctions, the issue of oil being used as a political weapon, made the Iranian authorities to, once again, think about reducing the country’s reliance on oil revenues.

In the past few years, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has repeatedly emphasized the need for reducing reliance on oil and has tasked the government to find ways to move toward an oil-independent economy.

Now that Iran has once again decided to try the “oil for development” plan, the question is, what can be changed in a program that was aborted 80 years ago to make it more compatible with the country’s current economic needs and conditions.

The substitute sources of income

Shortly after BPO announced its decision for cutting the oil revenues from the next year’s budget, the Head of the organization Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht listed three alternative sources of income to offset oil revenues in the budget planning.

According to the official, elimination of hidden energy subsidies, using government assets to generate revenue and increasing tax incomes would be the main sources of revenues to compensate for the cut oil incomes.

In theory, the mentioned replacements for oil revenues, not only can generate a significant amount of income, but they could, in fact, be huge contributors to the stability of the country’s economy in the long run. 

For instance, considering the energy subsidies, it is obvious that allocating huge amounts of energy and fuel subsidies is not a good strategy to follow.

In 2018, Iran ranked first among the world’s top countries in terms of the number of subsidies which is allocated to energy consumption with $69 billion of subsidies allocated for various types of energy consumption including oil, natural gas, and electricity.

Based on data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the total amount of allocated subsidies in Iran equals 15 percent of the country’s total GDP.

The budget that is allocated for subsidies every year could be spent in a variety of more purposeful, more fruitful areas. The country’s industry should compete in order to grow, people must learn to use more wisely and to protect the environment.

However, practically speaking, all the above-mentioned alternatives are in fact long term programs that take time to become fully operational. A huge step like eliminating hidden subsidiaries cannot be taken over a one or event two-year period.

The development aspect

One big aspect of the government’s current decision is the “development” part of the equation.

A big chunk of the country’s revenues is going to be spent on this part and so the government is obliged to make sure to choose such “development” projects very wisely.

Deciding to allocate a huge part of the country’s income on a specific sector, makes it more prone to corruption, and therefore, a plan which is aimed to help the country’s economy could become a deteriorating factor in itself if not wisely executed.

The question here is, “Is the government going to spend oil money on all the projects which are labeled as ‘development’ even if they lack the technical, economic and environmental justification?”

So, the government needs to screen development projects meticulously and eliminate the less vital ones and then plan according to the remaining truly-important projects.

Final thoughts

Even if the “oil-free” budget is a notion that seems a little ambitious at the moment, and even if there are great challenges in the way of its realization, but the decision itself is a huge step toward a better future for Iran’s economy. Although realizing this plan seems fairly impossible in the short-term, it surely can be realized with proper planning and consideration in the long term.

Sooner or later Iran has to cut off the ties of reliance on oil incomes and start moving toward a vibrant, dynamic and oil-free economy; a journey of which the first step has been already taken.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Growing preference for SUVs challenges emissions reductions in passenger car market

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Authors: Laura Cozzi and Apostolos Petropoulos*

With major automakers announcing new electric car models at a regular pace, there has been growing interest in recent years about the impact of electric vehicles on the overall car market, as well as global oil demand, carbon emissions, and air pollution.

Carmakers plan more than 350 electric models by 2025, mostly small-to-medium variants. Plans from the top 20 car manufacturers suggest a tenfold increase in annual electric car sales, to 20 million vehicles a year by 2030, from 2 million in 2018. Starting from a low base, less than 0.5% of the total car stock, this growth in electric vehicles means that nearly 7% of the car fleet will be electric by 2030.

Meanwhile, the conventional car market has been showing signs of fatigue, with sales declining in 2018 and 2019, due to slowing economies. Global sales of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars fell by around 2% to under 87 million in 2018, the first drop since the 2008 recession. Data for 2019 points to a continuation of this trend, led by China, where sales in the first half of the year fell nearly 14%, and India where they declined by 10%.

These trends have created a narrative of an imminent peak in passenger car oil demand, and related CO2 emissions, and the beginning of the end for the “ICE age.” As passenger cars consume nearly one-quarter of global oil demand today, does this signal the approaching erosion of a pillar of global oil consumption?

A more silent structural change may put this conclusion into question: consumers are buying ever larger and less fuel-efficient cars, known as Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs).

This dramatic shift towards bigger and heavier cars has led to a doubling of the share of SUVs over the last decade. As a result, there are now over 200 million SUVs around the world, up from about 35 million in 2010, accounting for 60% of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010. Around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, compared with less than 20% a decade ago.

This trend is universal. Today, almost half of all cars sold in the United States and one-third of the cars sold in Europe are SUVs. In China, SUVs are considered symbols of wealth and status. In India, sales are currently lower, but consumer preferences are changing as more and more people can afford SUVs. Similarly, in Africa, the rapid pace of urbanisation and economic development means that demand for premium and luxury vehicles is relatively strong.

The impact of its rise on global emissions is nothing short of surprising. The global fleet of SUVs has seen its emissions growing by nearly 0.55 Gt CO2 during the last decade to roughly 0.7 Gt CO2. As a consequence, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron & steel, cement, aluminium), as well as trucks and aviation.

On average, SUVs consume about a quarter more energy than medium-size cars. As a result, global fuel economy worsened caused in part by the rising SUV demand since the beginning of the decade, even though efficiency improvements in smaller cars saved over 2 million barrels a day, and electric cars displaced less than 100,000 barrels a day.

In fact, SUVs were responsible for all of the 3.3 million barrels a day growth in oil demand from passenger cars between 2010 and 2018, while oil use from other type of cars (excluding SUVs) declined slightly. If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.

The upcoming World Energy Outlook will focus on this under-appreciated area in the energy debate today, and examines the possible evolution of the global car market, electrification trends, and consumer preferences and provides insights for policy makers.

While discussions today see significant focus on electric vehicles and fuel economy improvements, the analysis highlights the role of the average size of car fleet. Bigger and heavier cars, like SUVs, are harder to electrify and growth in their rising demand may slow down the development of clean and efficient car fleets. The development of SUV sales given its substantial role in oil demand and CO2 emissions would affect the outlook for passenger cars and the evolution of future oil demand and carbon emissions.

*Apostolos Petropoulos, Energy Modeler.

This commentary is derived from analysis that will be published on 13 November 2019 in the forthcoming World Energy Outlook 2019. IEA

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