Growing worldwide coal use ‘overshadowing’ gains in renewable power — IEA

Source: Manuel Quiñones, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The growth of coal-fired power generation is “unsustainable” without carbon capture and sequestration technology, the International Energy Agency said in a report released today.

The report describes efforts to manage electric power production to achieve climate goals as bleak.IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said an autonomous body of 29 member countries saw coal use as a serious problem. In previous estimates, the group predicted coal demand would grow 2.3 percent per year on average through 2018.

“Growing use of coal globally is overshadowing progress in renewable energy deployment, and the emissions intensity of the electricity system has not changed in 20 years despite some progress in some regions,” she said in a release. “A radical change of course at the global level is long overdue.”

The report says the world must spend an additional $44 trillion to secure a clean energy future. It touted $115 trillion in fuel savings as an offset.

Even though natural gas can help reduce carbon emissions and help meet power demand while renewable energy continues maturing, the report referred to gas as a transitional fuel also in need of CCS.

Separately, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council released a reporttoday outlining a path for renewable energy sources to provide roughly 97 percent of U.S. power needs and 94 percent of heating and cooling needs by 2050.

The report foresees about 1.5 million jobs related to clean energy development by 2030, more than forecasted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Greenpeace also said its estimates are better the EIA’s when it comes to fuel cost savings from phasing out coal and oil, and overall costs.

Coal companies have said the fuel is helping alleviate energy poverty around the world and promoting economic growth. Mandating CCS now, industry groups say, will dissuade rather than grow the technology’s penetration.

EIA has said that 16 percent of coal-fired power production — or 50 gigawatts — will retire by 2020. If retirements of coal and nuclear power plants accelerate, the nonpartisan agency predicts a 12 percent increase in retail electricity prices compared to base levels.

“Retail electricity prices vary in the accelerated retirement cases, because natural gas prices are a key determinant of wholesale electricity prices, which in turn are a significant component of retail electricity prices,” said EIA in an analysis last month.