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IEA holds high level workshop on digitalisation of energy efficiency

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Participants listen to the opening address of Modernising Energy Efficiency through Digitalisation held in Paris on 27 March 2019 (Photograph: IEA)

Energy is going increasingly digital – better sensors, real-time data analytics and other innovations are enabling greater efficiencies and optimising the way energy is consumed across key sectors and end uses. Digital technologies are also enabling energy efficiency to play a more central role within the energy system, for example by enabling greater deployment of distributed renewable energy sources or by making electricity grids more flexible and responsive.

In support of the IEA’s analysis on the intersection between digitalization and efficiency, the IEA held a workshop entitled Modernising Energy Efficiency through Digitalisation in Paris on 27 March. The session brought together senior representatives from government, the private sector, research organisations, academia and international organisations.

“Energy efficiency is the first fuel in a sustainable global energy system. It is essential for any country looking to meet energy and carbon saving targets, and it can deliver many additional economic, environment and social benefits,” said Keisuke Sadamori, IEA Director of Energy Markets and Security, in his opening remarks. “Today’s session is a chance to identify opportunities for policy makers to use digital strategies to increase policy action on energy efficiency.” 

According to recent IEA analysis, global progress on energy efficiency is slowing. In parallel, and as detailed in our latest Global Energy and CO2 Status Report, global energy demand accelerated in 2018 to twice the average growth rate since 2010. At the same time, global carbon emissions were up nearly 2% last year, which was also the hottest year on record. In this context, a more modern, digital approach to energy efficiency could be critical for addressing growing energy demand and carbonemissions.

The IEA is also developing an online resource on digitalization and energy efficiency as part of its Global Exchange for Energy Efficiency. The resource will be launched during the IEA’s 4th annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency, which will take place in Dublin, Ireland on 24 and 25 June.

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Renewable energy investment in 2018 hit USD 288.9 billion

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Global investment in renewable energy hit USD 288.9 billion in 2018, with the amount spent on new capacity far exceeding the financial backing for new fossil fuel power, according to new figures published today.

These numbers, produced by BloombergNEF (BNEF), are being published today as part of REN21’s Renewables 2019 Global Status Report.

The numbers show that while investment was 11 per cent down over the previous year, 2018 was the ninth successive year in which it exceeded USD 200 billion and the fifth successive year above USD 250 billion. The figure does not include hydropower above 50MW, which saw an additional USD 16 billion invested – also down on 2017, when USD 40 billion was invested.

The dip in investment in 2018 can be partly attributed to falling technology costs in solar photovoltaics, which meant that the required capacity could be secured at a lower cost, and a slowdown in solar power deployment in China.

However, globally, solar was still the largest focus of investment, with USD 139.7 billion in 2018, down 22 per cent. Wind power investment increased two per cent in 2018, to USD 134.1 billion. The other sectors lagged far behind, although investment in biomass and waste-to-energy increased 54 per cent, to USD 8.7 billion.

The figures compare the amount invested in new renewable power capacity, which was USD 272.3 billion  globally in 2018 (excluding large hydro), with that in new coal- and gas-fired generating capacity, which was USD 95 billion.

China leads, Europe and developing countries rally

A geographical breakdown of the USD 288.9 billion figure for total renewable energy investment in 2018 shows that China led investment worldwide for the seventh successive year, at USD 91.2 billion. However, this was down 37 per cent from 2017’s record number, due to a number of factors including a mid-year change in the government’s feed-in tariff policy, which hit investment in solar power.

China also accounted for 32 per cent of the global total investment, followed by Europe at 21 per cent, the United States at 17 per cent, and Asia-Oceania (excluding China and India) at 15 per cent. Smaller shares were seen in India at 5 per cent, the Middle East and Africa at 5 per cent, the Americas (excluding Brazil and the United States) at 3 per cent and Brazil at 1 per cent.

If China is excluded, renewable energy investment in the developing world actually increased 6 per cent to USD 61.6 billion, a record high.

“When overall investment falls, it is easy to think we are moving backwards, but that is not the case,” Angus McCrone, Chief Editor at BloombergNEF, commented: “Renewable energy is getting less expensive and we are seeing a broadening of investment activity in wind and solar to more countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa.”

Investment in Europe jumped 39 per cent to USD 61.2 billion, the highest level in two years, driven largely by large on- and off-shore wind investments.

In the United States, investment edged up 1 per cent to USD 48.5 billion, the highest level since 2011, also driven by an increase in wind power financing.

Investment in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding China and India) increased 6 per cent to USD 44.2 billion, the highest level in three years, while the Middle East and Africa saw investment leap 57 per cent to a record USD 15.4 billion. However, in the Americas (excluding Brazil and the United States), investment declined 23 per cent (excluding large hydropower) to USD 9.8 billion. 

“It is reassuring to see investment growing in the US,” said Prof. Dr. Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, involved in the report, “Ironically, this renewables investment growth may in part be driven by projects rushing to qualify for the current tax-support scheme, which is due to expire in only a few years as chances for extension are currently quite low.”

A wealth of more detailed information on global investment in the financing of renewables in 2018 will be shared in the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, to be released in September ahead of the Global Climate Action summit of the UN Secretary-General. That report has been published every year since 2007. this year’s edition is co-funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. It will feature a look back on a decade of renewable energy investment.

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Clean Energy at Forefront of Fight Against Climate Change in Asia and Pacific

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The advancement of affordable and reliable clean energy is not only at the forefront of Asia and the Pacific’s development progress, it is also at the heart of the region’s development of resilient infrastructure and fight against climate change, participants at the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2019 heard today.

Co-hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United States Agency for International Development, and the Korea Energy Agency, with the support of the International Energy Agency as the Knowledge Partner, ACEF 2019 is being held from 18–21 June under the theme “Partnering for Impact.” In line with this theme, the event is highlighting the need to focus on collaborative partnerships, ideas, and efforts that have market potential, with the goal of delivering tangible clean energy impact across the Asia and Pacific region.

Some 1,300 people will attend the event, including many from the private sector involved in clean energy development, as well as academicians, officials from governments, and representatives from nongovernment organizations and multilateral development banks. ACEF began in 2006 as an annual event to provide a platform for discussion and collaboration in promoting clean energy in Asia and the Pacific.

ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao participated in the opening panel discussion featuring Co-founder and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute Mr. Amory Lovins and Global Strategic Development Advisor and Member of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment Ms. Fiza Farhan.

“A sustainable and secure energy supply remains essential as more than 350 million people still lack access to electricity in our developing member countries (DMCs). It is also a key part of the fight against climate change,” said Mr. Nakao. “People around the world are demanding affordable energy, clean air, and a more responsible approach to the environment. ACEF is a leading event in Asia and the Pacific that enables our DMCs and other participants to share their experiences and innovative ways to meet these critical demands.”

Through Strategy 2030, ADB has committed at least 75% of its operations to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts by 2030. Climate finance from ADB’s own resources will reach $80 billion for the period 2019–2030. Based on historical trends, ADB’s lending, equity, grants, and programs in support of renewable and energy efficiency could contribute significantly to this target.

ADB has also affirmed its commitment to advanced technologies in sustainable energy by launching its first innovation technology challenge, which will invite technology providers to submit proposals for grants from the High-Level Technology Fund which is supported by the Government of Japan to address energy related development challenges. This new modality aims to build partnerships with technology providers and accelerate innovative technology development and deployment in DMCs.

ACEF 2019 features five thematic tracks based on key elements of Strategy 2030: energy and livable cities; energy and water sustainability; energy and rural poverty alleviation; energy and innovative finance; and clean energy technologies. There will be 21 workshops focusing on a range of topics, including radical energy efficiency, hydro mini-grids, electric vehicles, the empowerment of women in the energy sector, renewable energy systems, the future of cooling, and the food–energy–water nexus.

ACEF 2019 will be limiting its carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits to offset the travel related emissions of all participants. The event will also be paperless, with all program materials to be made exclusively available on ACEF’s website and mobile app.

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IEA takes part in G20 Energy and Environment Ministerial in Japan

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The IEA's contributions to the G20 this year include a major report on hydrogen as well as work on innovation gaps and investment in low-carbon power. (Photograph: IEA)

The International Energy Agency has provided in-depth support for this weekend’s meeting of G20 energy and environment ministers, including the publication of a major new study on hydrogen’s potential role in global energy transitions.

Under Japan’s G20 presidency, the ministerial meeting took place in the town of Karuizawa.

The IEA report on hydrogen – The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities – analyses hydrogen’s current state of play and offers recommendations for its future development and how it can help to tackle critical energy challenges. The IEA carried out the study at the request of Japan’s G20 presidency. It was launched Friday by Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, alongside Mr Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The IEA provided several other important contributions to the G20 this year at the presidency’s request, including an analysis identifying more than 100 innovation gaps across the energy system and recommendations for how to fill them; a report on securing investment in low-carbon power generation; and other activities and analyses to encourage greater international collaboration on data gathering.

The IEA’s G20 work also involves tracking progress towards phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption. This is done through an annual update in the World Energy Outlook, the IEA’s flagship publication, and a joint report with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

At the ministerial meetings in Karuizawa, Dr Birol presented findings from the new reports and spoke about other important topics, including energy access in Africa, tracking progress towards clean energy goals and developments in the global trade in liquefied natural gas (LNG). (Slides from his two presentations are available here and here.)

On the sidelines, he held bilateral meetings with ministers from several countries, including Australia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

The IEA also supported the official side events of the ministerial meetings: the G20 Natural Gas Day, the G20 Energy Efficiency Financing Summit and hydrogen investor events in Japan. The IEA’s contributions to this year’s G20 are the latest instance of the agency’s active support for a range of G20 meetings and work streams over the past 10 years.

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