Electricity for all and gas cleaner: the scenario of green from the IEA

Photo: Sia Kambou Agence France-Presse
A man charging electrical appliances using a solar panel to Diebly, a village without electricity in Côte d’ivoire. The IEA estimates that approximately 675 million people (90% in sub-saharan Africa) will remain without access to electricity in 2030, compared to 1.1 billion today.

To limit global warming and improve air quality, the international energy Agency (IEA) proposes to generalize the access to electricity from mostly renewable and the use of a gas emit less methane.


In its annual forecast released Tuesday, the IEA estimates that the world does not go far enough on the access to energy, the fight against pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases. According to the scenario based on current policies and intentions displayed by the different countries, the CO2 emissions related to energy will continue to increase slightly by 2040.


There are certainly some positive signals : the agency has therefore revised down to 600 million tonnes its forecast of CO2 emissions to this date compared to his last annual report. But ” this result is far from being sufficient to avoid serious effects of climate change “, notes the IEA. The path seems as unsatisfactory from the point of view of the quality of the air, with an expected increase of three to four million premature deaths due to poor air quality in 2040.


As regards access to electricity, the progress should continue, but remain limited : the IEA estimates that approximately 675 million people (90% in sub-saharan Africa) will remain without access to electricity in 2030, compared to 1.1 billion today. Similarly, if the number of people cooking with energy sources are dirty (such as coal) must decrease, it will remain high and will continue to contribute to the pollution of the interior.


Alternative scenario


The IEA — which advises on energy policy to 29 developed countries that are also members of the Organization of economic cooperation and development (OECD) is developing this year an alternative scenario to a stabilization of the climate, the air to be less polluted and universal access to modern energy sources.


It is assumed that the energies, low carbon (renewable, nuclear) will double their share in the global energy mix to reach 40 % in 2040. The demand for coal should decline immediately, followed by a peak in consumption of oil thanks to the development of electric vehicles. It also involves an all-out effort on energy efficiency.


The report focuses particularly on the place of the gas, which in all cases will have an important role to play in the future.


This hydrocarbon, the use of which is less polluting than oil, will be all the more important in countries that currently rely on heavily coal (China and India) or even in the case where the solutions renewables are less easy to implement immediately. But the Agency emphasizes that it will be able to play a positive role as a condition of reducing its emissions of methane.


It is estimated that the methane, produced also by addition of agriculture, contributes some 20% to global warming. The oil and gas sector emits 76 million tonnes each year. “It is technically feasible to reduce global emissions of methane from activities related to oil and gas by about 75 % and the emissions could be reduced from 40% to 50% without additional net cost “, the report says.


For its part, the electricity should have a more important role to play, but also make the investments more massive than expected. It should be that it attracts two-thirds of the investments in the energy sources compared to 40% in average in recent years.


Renewable energy would account for more than 60 % in electricity generation by 2040, while nuclear power would make it 15 %. The power plants using fossil fuels will need to decline and — for a part of them — equip systems of CO2 capture and storage. If fossil fuels will continue to play a role in this scenario ” green “, the IEA suggests for the removal of subsidies in their favor : with $ 260 billion in 2016, they have received almost double the amount of renewable.

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