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Green power generation insufficient for reaching net-zero targets

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Transitioning the power sector to low-carbon infrastructure will only shift the world one-third of the way towards net-zero emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

In a new report, it said a major effort to develop and deploy clean energy technologies worldwide is “urgently needed” to meet international energy and climate goals.

The transport, industry and buildings sectors account for about 55 per cent of global CO2 emissions from the energy system. Much greater use of green electricity in these sectors – for powering electric vehicles, recycling metals, heating buildings and many other tasks – can make the single largest contribution to reaching net-zero emissions, according to the report.

In recent years, Governments have been revamping power generation to be less carbon intensive, through initiatives such as building more renewable power facilities and reducing the use of coal.

However, with power generation generally centralised into a comparatively small number of facilities, decarbonising power generation presents less of a challenge than, for example, replacing all petrol and diesel vehicles with EVs.

“Despite the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 crisis, several recent developments give us grounds for increasing optimism about the world’s ability to accelerate clean energy transitions and reach its energy and climate goals,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “Still, major issues remain. This new IEA report not only shows the scale of the challenge but also offers vital guidance for overcoming it.

“Solar is leading renewables to new heights in markets across the globe, ultralow interest rates can help finance a growing number of clean energy projects, more governments and companies are throwing their weight behind these critical technologies, and all-important energy innovation may be about to take off.”

“However, we need even more countries and businesses to get on board, we need to redouble efforts to bring energy access to all those who currently lack it, and we need to tackle emissions from the vast amounts of existing energy infrastructure in use worldwide that threaten to put our shared goals out of reach.”

The report analysed more than 800 technology options to examine what would need to happen for the world to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The IEA said between a third and half of cumulative emissions reductions needed come from technologies which are not commercially available today - for example, low-carbon hydrogen, which is produced by electrolysis powered by renewable energy, and technology to capture carbon emissions released to the atmosphere and store them.

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