Tuesday 27th September 2016                 Change text size:

Report: power emissions to peak in 2029 as decarbonisation progress made



coal power plant by Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr

Emissions from the power sector will peak in 2029 and “tremendous progress” will be made to decarbonise power generation over the next two and a half decades, according to forecasts from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). However, the organisation notes that more needs to be done if the world is to limit climate change.

The New Energy Outlook (NEO) 2015 is the latest annual long-term forecast for global energy, looking 25 years ahead. According to the report, global electricity generation will rise by 56% between 2014 and 2040 as economies development and populations grow.

This will result in global power sector emissions rising from 13.1 gigatonnes in 2014 to a peak of 15.3 gigatonnes in 2029. Greater burning of coal by developing countries will offset the gains made by renewables in developed counties. This means that world emissions will fall back, but only to 14.8 gigatonnes in 2040, still 13% above 2014 levels.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at BNEF, said, “NEO 2015 draws together all of BNEF’s best data and information on energy costs, policy, technology and finance.

“It shows that we will see tremendous progress towards a decarbonised power system. However, it also shows that despite this, coal will continue to play a big part in world power, with emissions continuing to rise for another decade and a half, unless further radical policy action is taken.”

The peak demand and development of the power sector are linked to five “major shifts” that the report identifies and expects to happen between now and 2040. This includes declining cost of solar technology driving a £3.7 trillion (£2.3tn) surge in investment in the sector. A considerable amount of this investment, some $2.2 trillion (£1.4tn), is expected to go on rooftop and other local PV systems “handing consumers and businesses the ability to generate their own electricity”.

It is also predicted that natural gas will not be a ‘transition fuel’ that will help the world wean off coal, with many developing nations opting for a twin-track of coal and renewables.

Another shift is the demand for power, with energy efficient technologies limiting growth in global power demand to 1.8% per year, down from 3%, and OECD countries will see their demand fall by 2040, when compared to 2014.

Despite the trends identified in the report showing progress is being made, the findings indicate that not enough is being done to limit climate change.

Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa for BNEF and lead author of the report, commented, “The CO2 content of the atmosphere is on course to exceed 450 parts per million by 2035 even if emissions stay constant, so the trend we show of rising emissions to 2029 makes it very unlikely that the world will be able to limit temperature increases to less than 2C.

“The message for international negotiators preparing for the Paris climate change conference in December is that current policy settings – even combined with the vast strides renewables are making on competitiveness – will not be enough. Further policy action on emissions will be needed.”

Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr

Further reading:

Shell CEO: We can’t ignore the importance of renewable energy

Energy bosses call for carbon pricing system

UN: clean energy investment can support economy more than fossil fuels

Coal demand set to reach record 9bn tonnes by 2019

Use smart technology to cut energy demand and emissions, say MPs


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