Higher ambition and faster action by governments to accelerate improvements in energy efficiency worldwide are both vital and achievable, according to 10 key recommendations published today by a group of national leaders, ministers, top business executives and prominent energy experts. The list of proposed actions will be a key part of discussions at a major IEA conference that takes place tomorrow.
With the support of the IEA, the members of the Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency have over the past year explored the most effective ways to achieve stronger global progress in energy efficiency, which brings major benefits such as lower energy bills, large numbers of new jobs and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Their 10 recommendations highlight the best approaches to designing and implementing policies to unlock the huge advantages that energy efficiency offers to economies and societies around the world.
The Global Commission’s work comes as many governments are increasingly focusing on plans to repair the social and economic damage caused by the Covid-19 crisis. The Commission’s recommendations focus on this new reality and highlight the strong role that energy efficiency can play in bringing about a sustainable recovery.
“At this critical time, the importance of energy efficiency has not faded. If anything, the case is stronger and more urgent than ever before,” said Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland, the Commission’s Honorary Chair, in an introduction to the recommendations. “We need transformative change. Therefore, we have developed this set of 10 recommendations that identify policies that can be implemented quickly to boost activity on energy efficiency globally.”
Established a year ago, the Global Commission is an independent body comprising 23 members from around the world spanning government, industry, research and civil society. Drawing on the IEA’s analysis showing the worrying slowdown of global efficiency progress in recent years, the Global Commission was tasked with examining how to reverse this trend through new and stronger policy action by governments across key sectors of the economy.
The work of the Global Commission complements a major IEA report released last week that outlines a Sustainable Recovery Plan designed to enable governments to simultaneously boost their economies, create millions of jobs and put global greenhouse gas emissions into structural decline. Based on an analysis conducted in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund, the new IEA report shows that energy efficiency is an essential element in achieving these results.
“The IEA sees energy efficiency as a crucial clean energy resource,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “It has enormous untapped potential to help put the world on a more secure and sustainable path if governments make it an integral part of their policies and programmes across key parts of the economy. This is why I invited the members of the Global Commission to come together to identify global best practices and make actionable recommendations to spur the faster progress that the world urgently needs. I thank all the Commission members for their extremely valuable contributions to this endeavour.”
The Global Commission’s recommendations will be discussed at the IEA’s Fifth Annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency, which will take place online on 23 June. The conference will hear from 15 ministers from around the world, with a focus on policy actions that can deliver the multiple benefits of energy efficiency as governments respond to the Covid-19 crisis. High-level speakers will bring a range of perspectives from governments, companies and international organisations.
The role of energy efficiency in economic stimulus plans and clean energy transitions will be an important part of discussions at the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit on 9 July. The Summit, which will take place online, will bring together dozens of ministers from countries representing over 80% of global energy demand as well as energy industry CEOs, big investors and other key leaders from the public and private sectors around the world.
Actions proposed by Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency highlight benefits of efficiency for sustainable recovery plans and will be discussed at major IEA conference tomorrow
1. Prioritise cross-cutting energy efficiency action for its economic, social and environmental benefits
A stronger, all-of-government policy focus will enhance social and economic development, energy security and resilience, decarbonisation, and rapid job creation and economic stimulus
2. Act to unlock efficiency’s job creation potential
Energy efficiency can quickly deliver job growth and can become a long-term, sustainable employment sector
3. Create greater demand for energy efficiency solutions
Efficiency action will be most rapidly scaled up through a focus on increasing demand for efficient products and services and enabling greater levels of market activity
4. Focus on finance in the wider context of scaling up action
Mobilising finance is an essential element of efficiency action, and policies to do so will be most effective if they are part of a wide, coherent approach to driving market scale
5. Leverage digital innovation to enhance system-wide efficiency
Policymakers can take advantage of digital innovation’s potential to enable smart control, better energy management, and wider energy system optimisation
6. The public sector should lead by example
Governments should lead through investment in public sector efficiency and driving innovation and higer standards throughout its reach
7. Engage all parts of society
Implementation of efficiency action can happen at all levels of society, with cities, businesses, and local communities all playing a particularly important role in its success
8. Leverage behavioural insights for more effective policy
People are at the centre of energy efficiency action, and insights from behavioural science can help design smarter policies
9. Strengthen international collaboration
International collaboration and exchange of best practice allow countries to learn from each other and to harmonise approaches and standards where appropriate
10. Raise global energy efficiency ambition
Governments should be significantly more ambitious in both the short- and long-term when setting their efficiency targets, policies and actions
The Global Commission’s 10 Recommendations
Honorary Chair: H.E. Mr. Leo VARADKAR, Prime Minister of Ireland H.E. Dr. Amani ABOU-ZEID, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union Commission, Ethiopia H.E. Mr. Richard BRUTON, Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Ireland Mr. Nick BUTLER, Visiting Professor, King’s College London, United Kingdom H.E. Mr. Alfonso CUSI, Secretary, Department of Energy, Philippines Ms. Lisa DAVIS, CEO, Gas and Power, Siemens, United States Ms. Connie HEDEGAARD, Chair, KR Foundation, Denmark Mr. Michael LIEBREICH, Chairman and CEO, Liebreich Associates, United Kingdom Dr. Ajay MATHUR, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute, India Ms. Lisa MURKOWSKI, US Senator, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, United States (honorary member) Mr. Gil C. QUINIONES, President and CEO, New York Power Authority, United States H.E. Mr. Aziz RABBAH, Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development, Morocco H.E. Ms. Teresa RIBERA RODRIGUEZ, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Ecological Transition, Spain Mr. Adam SIEMINSKI, President, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Saudi Arabia H.E. Ms. María Fernanda SUÁREZ LONDOÑO, Minister of Mines and Energy, Colombia Mr. Masakazu TOYODA, Chairman and CEO, Institute of Energy Economics, Japan Mr. Jürgen TRITTIN, Member of the German Parliament, Germany H.E. Mr. Claude TURMES, Minister for Energy and Minister for Spatial Planning, Luxembourg Mr. Ben van BEURDEN, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell, the Netherlands H.E. Dr. WAN Gang, Chairman, Science and Technology Association of China H.E. Dr. Megan WOODS, Minister of Energy and Resources, New Zealand Dr. Kandeh YUMKELLA, Former UN Under-Secretary-General, CEO & Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sustainable Energy for All, Sierra Leone H.E. Ms. Salomé ZOURABICHVILI, President of Georgia
Achieving Net Zero Electricity Sectors in G7 Members
G7 members are well placed to fully decarbonise their electricity supply by 2035, which would accelerate the technological advances and infrastructure rollouts needed to lead global energy markets towards net zero emissions by 2050, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. The report was requested by the United Kingdom, which holds the G7 Presidency this year.
The pathway laid out in the report – Achieving Net Zero Electricity Sectors in G7 Members – underscores how the G7 can serve as first movers, jump-starting innovation and lowering the cost of technologies for other countries while maintaining electricity security and placing people at the centre of energy transitions.
The new report builds on the IEA’s landmark Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 to identify key milestones, challenges and opportunities for G7 members. Following on from June’s G7 Summit, it is designed to inform discussions at the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, for which the UK also holds the Presidency.
At the G7 Summit, the leaders of Canada Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – plus the European Union – committed to reach “an overwhelmingly decarbonised” power system in the 2030s and net zero emissions across their economies no later than 2050.
The G7 now accounts for nearly 40% of the global economy, 36% of global power generation capacity, 30% of global energy demand and 25% of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Its clean energy transition is already underway, with coal making way for cleaner options. The electricity sector now accounts for one-third of the G7’s energy-related emissions, down from a peak of nearly two-fifths in 2007. In 2020, natural gas and renewables were the primary sources of electricity in the G7, each providing about 30% of the total, with nuclear power and coal close to 20% each.
Reaching net zero emissions from electricity would require completing the phase-out of unabated coal while simultaneously expanding low emissions sources of electricity, including renewables, nuclear, hydrogen and ammonia. According to the IEA’s pathway to net zero by 2050, renewables need to provide 60% of the G7’s electricity supply by 2030, whereas under current policies they are on track to reach 48%.
The G7 has an opportunity to demonstrate that electricity systems with 100% renewables during specific periods of the year and in certain locations can be secure and affordable. At the same time, increased reliance on renewables does require the G7 to lead the way in finding solutions to maintain electricity security, including seasonal storage and more flexible and robust grids.
In the IEA’s pathway to net zero by 2050, innovation delivers 30% of G7 electricity sector emissions reductions to 2050, which will require international collaboration while also creating technology leadership opportunities for G7 countries. Mature technologies like hydropower and light-water nuclear reactors contribute only about 15% of the reductions in the IEA pathway. About 55% come from deploying technologies that either still have huge scope to grow further, such as onshore wind and solar PV, or in early adoption phase, such as heat pumps and battery storage. Technologies still in development, such as floating offshore wind, carbon capture and hydrogen, would deliver another 30%.
The new report underscores that people must be placed at the centre of all clean electricity transitions. Decarbonising electricity could create as many as 2.6 million jobs in the G7 over the next decade, but as many as 300,000 jobs could be lost at fossil fuel power plants, with profound local impacts that demand strong and sustained policy attention to minimise the negative impacts on individuals and communities. Household spending on energy should decline by 2050, as rising spending on electricity is more than offset by lower expenses for coal, natural gas and oil products. Governments must foster efficiency gains and structure energy tariffs for consumers and businesses so that all households can benefit from these cost savings.
“G7 members have the financial and technological means to bring their electricity sector emissions to net zero in the 2030s, and doing so will create numerous spill-over benefits for other countries’ clean energy transitions and add momentum to global efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “G7 leadership in this crucial endeavour would demonstrate that getting to electricity sectors with net zero emissions is both doable and advantageous, and would also drive new innovations that can benefit businesses and consumers.”
“We have decided to take the path towards climate neutrality. This can only be achieved together – with joint and decisive action,”said Peter Altmaier, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy. “Our way towards climate neutrality is ambitious, but necessary. We need to act together with clear, joint and decisive action. The energy sector plays clearly a key role on our way to climate neutrality. Solutions are at hand, such as the exit from coal-fired power generation in Germany and other countries. The IEA report shows how the G7 can live up to its pioneering role in this regard – a matter that will continue to be topical during the German G7 presidency in 2022.”
“In this critical year of climate action ahead of COP26, I welcome this report, which sets out a roadmap for the G7 to meet the commitment, made earlier this year, to accelerate the transition from coal to clean power,” said COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma. “The report also highlights the huge jobs and growth opportunities that this decade could bring, from scaling-up renewables and improving energy efficiency to driving digital solutions and deploying critical technologies.”
“We welcome the IEA’s report on achieving net zero electricity sectors in the G7. These countries should provide leadership in the energy transition,” said UN High Level Climate Action Champions Gonzalo Munoz and Nigel Topping. “Decarbonising electricity is essential to keep 1.5 degrees alive, as well as to provide the power for electrification of other sectors. Key G7 milestones in the report include phase out of unabated coal and reaching 60% renewable share of electricity by 2030 and overall net zero electricity emissions by 2035. The private sector stands ready to support this effort.”
Sustainable transport key to green energy shift
With global transport at a crossroads, government leaders, industry experts, and civil society groups are meeting in Beijing, China, for a UN conference to chart the way forward to a more sustainable future for the sector, and greater climate action overall.
The three-day UN Sustainable Transport Conference, which opened on Thursday, will examine how transportation can contribute to climate response, economic growth and sustainable development.
It is taking place just weeks before the COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The next nine years must see a global shift towards renewable energy. Sustainable transport is central to that transformation,” he said.
The move to sustainable transport could deliver savings of $70 trillion by 2050, according to the World Bank.
Better access to roads could help Africa to become self-sufficient in food, and create a regional food market worth $1 trillion by the end of the decade.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how transport is “far more than a means of getting people and goods from A to B”, the UN chief said.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but the door for action is closing, he warned.
“Transport, which accounts for more than one quarter of global greenhouse gases, is key to getting on track. We must decarbonize all means of transport, in order to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 globally.”
A role for everyone
Decarbonizing transportation requires countries to address emissions from shipping and aviation because current commitments are not aligned with the Paris Agreement.
Priorities here include phasing out the production of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040, while zero emission vessels “must be the default choice” for the shipping sector.
“All stakeholders have a role to play, from individuals changing their travel habits, to businesses transforming their carbon footprint,” the Secretary-General said.
He urged governments to incentivize clean transport, for example through regulatory standards and taxation, and to impose stricter regulation of infrastructure and procurement.
Safer transport for all
The issues of safety and access must also be addressed, the Secretary-General continued.
“This means helping more than one billion people to access paved roads, with designated space for pedestrians and bicycles, and providing convenient public transit options,” he said.
“It means providing safe conditions for all on public transport by ending harassment and violence against women and girls, and reducing deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.”
Making transport resilient
Post-pandemic recovery must also lead to resilient transport systems, with investments going towards sustainable transport, and generating decent jobs and opportunities for isolated communities.
“Public transport should be the foundation for urban mobility,” he said. “Per dollar invested, it creates three times more jobs than building new highways.”
With much existing transport infrastructure, such as ports, vulnerable to extreme climate events, better risk analysis and planning are needed, along with increased financing for climate adaptation, particularly in developing countries.
Mr. Guterres stressed the need for effective partnerships, including with the private sector, so that countries can work together more coherently.
“The transformative potential of sustainable transport can only be unleashed if improvements translate into poverty eradication, decent jobs better health and education, and increased opportunities for women and girls. Countries have much to learn from each other,” he said.
Decisive action by governments is critical to unlock growth for low-carbon hydrogen
Governments need to move faster and more decisively on a wide range of policy measures to enable low-carbon hydrogen to fulfil its potential to help the world reach net zero emissions while supporting energy security, the International Energy Agency says in a new report released today.
Currently, global production of low-carbon hydrogen is minimal, its cost is not yet competitive, and its use in promising sectors such as industry and transport remains limited – but there are encouraging signs that it is on the cusp of significant cost declines and widespread global growth, according the IEA’s Global Hydrogen Review 2021.
When the IEA released its special report on The Future of Hydrogen for the G20 in 2019, only France, Japan and Korea had strategies for the use of hydrogen. Today, 17 governments have released hydrogen strategies, more than 20 others have publicly announced they are working to develop strategies, and numerous companies are seeking to tap into hydrogen business opportunities. Pilot projects are underway to produce steel and chemicals with low-carbon hydrogen, with other industrial uses under development. The cost of fuel cells that run on hydrogen continue to fall, and sales of fuel-cell vehicles are growing.
“It is important to support the development of low-carbon hydrogen if governments are going to meet their climate and energy ambitions,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, who is launching the report today at the Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting hosted by Japan. “We have experienced false starts before with hydrogen, so we can’t take success for granted. But this time, we are seeing exciting progress in making hydrogen cleaner, more affordable and more available for use across different sectors of the economy. Governments need to take rapid actions to lower the barriers that are holding low-carbon hydrogen back from faster growth, which will be important if the world is to have a chance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.”
Hydrogen is light, storable and energy-dense, and its use as a fuel produces no direct emissions of pollutants or greenhouse gases. The main obstacle to the extensive use of low-carbon hydrogen is the cost of producing it. This requires either large amounts of electricity to produce it from water, or the use of carbon capture technologies if the hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels. Almost all hydrogen produced today comes from fossil fuels without carbon capture, resulting in close to 900 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the combined CO2 emissions of the United Kingdom and Indonesia.
Investments and focused policies are needed to close the price gap between low-carbon hydrogen and emissions-intensive hydrogen produced from fossil fuels. Depending on the prices of natural gas and renewable electricity, producing hydrogen from renewables can cost between 2 and 7 times as much as producing it from natural gas without carbon capture. But with technological advances and economies of scale, the cost of making hydrogen with solar PV electricity can become competitive with hydrogen made with natural gas, as set out in the IEA’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050.
Global capacity of electrolysers, which produce hydrogen from water using electricity, doubled over the last five years, with about 350 projects currently under development and another 40 projects in early stages of development. Should all these projects be realised, global hydrogen supply from electrolysers – which creates zero emissions provided the electricity used is clean – would reach 8 million tonnes by 2030. This is a huge increase from today’s level of less than 50 000 tonnes – but remains well below the 80 million tonnes required in 2030 in the IEA pathway to net zero emissions by 2050.
Practically all hydrogen use in 2020 was for refining and industrial applications. Hydrogen can be used in many more applications than those common today, the report highlights. Hydrogen has important potential uses in sectors where emissions are particularly challenging to reduce, such as chemicals, steel, long-haul trucking, shipping and aviation.
The broader issue is that policy action so far focuses on the production of low-carbon hydrogen while the necessary corresponding steps that are required to build demand in new applications is limited. Enabling greater use of hydrogen in industry and transport will require much stronger policy measures to foster the construction of the necessary storage, transmission and charging facilities.
Countries with hydrogen strategies have committed at least USD 37 billion to the development and deployment of hydrogen technologies, and the private sector has announced additional investment of USD 300 billion. But putting the hydrogen sector on path consistent with global net zero emissions by 2050 requires USD 1 200 billion of investment between now and 2030, the IEA estimates.
The Global Hydrogen Review lays out a series of recommendations for near term-action beyond just mobilising investment in research, production and infrastructure. It highlights that governments could stimulate demand and reduce price differences through carbon pricing, mandates, quotas and hydrogen requirements in public procurement. In addition, international cooperation is needed to establish standards and regulations, and to create global hydrogen markets that could spur demand in countries with limited potential to produce low-carbon hydrogen and create export opportunities for countries with large renewable energy supplies or large CO2 storage potential.
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