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OECD report: energy mix has ‘barely changed’ in two decades



A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that the energy mix of member countries has “barely changed” since the early 1990s, despite interest and investment in renewables growing.

Environment at a Glance 2013 reveals how different OECD countries are faring on the sustainability front and shows the environmental trends of the last two decades. The OCED is made up of 34 countries, with developed western nations making up the vast majority of its members. Members include the UK, US, Australia and Canada.

Within the OECD bloc, around 80% of energy comes from fossil fuels, demonstrating our continued reliance on gas and oil. Only 9% of energy supply comes from renewable sources, despite improving infrastructure and investment in the industry. Separate research recently found that renewable energy was the second most popular investment choice of retail investors in the UK.

According to the European renewable energy barometer, Europe’s energy mix is slightly more sustainable than that of OECD members, with 14.4% of energy coming from renewable sources in 2012.

In addition, overall energy supply in the OECD area had increased by 26%, partly driven by a 17% rise in demand from the transport sector. The organisation found that the increase in the number of cars on the road has offset the gains from more fuel-efficient engines.

Whilst petrol or diesel cars continue to be far more widespread in the UK, sales of electric vehicles rose significantly in 2013. When compared to 2012, the sales of pure electric cars went up by 99% last year.

The OECD analysis also shows the vast difference of energy consumption between developed and developing nations. Whilst carbon dioxide emissions from member states vary, people in OECD countries are still emitting 10 tonnes of CO2 each year on average. This compares to the four tonnes recorded in the rest of the world.

However, improvements have been made in the last 20 years, with 13 of the 34 counties cutting CO2 emissions. This includes the UK, which has cut emissions by 23%. The countries that saw the largest increases were Chile, Turkey and South Korea.

The report assessed how successful countries have been at breaking the link between economic growth and environmental damage. Whilst progress has been made in key areas, such as air pollution, energy, water and biodiversity protection, the pace is not enough and pressure on the environment continues to rise.

The OECD said, “The report essentially confirms that much more needs to be done to break the link between economic growth and environmental damage, and to safeguard the natural resource base on which human welfare and economic activity depends.”

Further reading:

Renewable energy second most popular investment for British public

EU urged to set 2030 renewable energy target

Renewable energy share in Europe up to 14.4% in 2012

UK economy growing faster than predicted, says ONS

The limits of existence: aligning economics and thermodynamics