Consulting

Stable international supply can only be guaranteed with renewable energies


38 billion dollars will have to be invested in the renewable energy infrastructure worldwide by 2035, predicts the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its World Energy Outlook (WEO) report, presented in November 2011. And under no circumstances should this investment be delayed; otherwise there will be an explosion in the costs of meeting the security of supply and climate protection targets.

If the rise in temperature is really to be limited to two degrees Celsius, experts calculate that failure to invest will increase the costs of counterbalancing the higher emissions produced up to that point by a factor of 4.3. According to the report, if no meaningful expenditure is provided by 2017, the existing energy infrastructure would emit so much CO2 in the course of consumption and production that the two-degree climate target could only be achieved through the use of expensive new CO2-free power stations and factories.

If this does not happen, or if governments do not attach sufficient importance to climate change, according to the other scenarios calculated the average global temperature could increase by 3.5 to 6 degrees Celsius. In the WEO's central scenario, global warming of 3.5 degrees Celsius is therefore assumed.

In this it is assumed that, at the very least, the measures already decided upon by governments will be fully implemented. Nonetheless, according to the WEO, primary energy demands will increase by a third by 2035. Only ten per cent of this will be due to the developed industrial nations, the so-called OECD area. China will become the world's largest energy consumer, consuming a share approximately 70 per cent greater than the United States.

Renewable energies will assume a central role. Even in the central scenario, they will account for 18 per cent of the world's primary energy demands in a quarter of a century. Subsidies for renewable energy will increase to 250 billion US dollars by 2035. However his considerable sum can be put into perspective by a comparative figure. The report puts the total subsidies for fossil fuels in the year 2010 at 409 billion US dollars.

Of course, this assumes that the proportion of fossil fuels will shrink from its current total of 81 per cent of worldwide primary energy consumption to 75 per cent, but due to higher demand the absolute figures will be greater than today's. Oil consumption will continue to increase due to growth outside of the OECD states, benefitting in particular the oil states in northern Africa and the Near East. Coal consumption will also increase. In order to achieve climate targets, particularly in China, low-emissions power plant technologies are of particular importance. On the important role of natural gas, the report predicts that the "golden years" of gas will primarily benefit Russia.

Many countries are continuing to embrace nuclear power. But the previous IEA expansion scenario looks increasingly in doubt. For the first time, the report contains a low-nuclear scenario. If this does not lead to insecurities in energy supply, renewable energies would have to step into the breach with corresponding financial support.

More support for renewable energies is in any case indispensible for Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA: Governments must provide greater incentives for investment in efficient, low-carbon technologies. "Because", according to Birol, "increasing living standards and bigger populations will drive energy demand inexorably upwards in the coming decades. We can no longer depend on unreliable energy use, which is also a burden on the environment."

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