November 16, 2016 Read More →

Renewables Are a Winner in Global Energy Transition; Coal Is the Loser

John Schwartz for the New York Times:

The annual report of the I.E.A., which is based in Paris, noted that renewable energy was booming, with more capacity added in 2015 than for coal, oil and nuclear power combined. Still, fossil fuels will have a substantial role to play in the global energy mix for many years to come — especially natural gas, which is rapidly displacing coal.

“The era of fossil fuels is far from being over, even if the Paris pledges are fully implemented,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the I.E.A. Today, he said, the share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix is about 81 percent; if Paris goals are met, the share will drop only to 74 percent by 2040. This is in part because even though renewable energy sources are finding their way into electricity generation, oil is still an important source of power for transportation and petrochemical production.

Still, there are winners and losers within fossil fuels, Dr. Birol said. The biggest winner worldwide in the group’s projections is natural gas, and the biggest loser is coal. China, the world’s largest coal producer and user, has been pulling back and appears to have reached the peak of its coal use in 2013.

The report predicted that by 2040, 80 percent of the new energy generated to meet global demand will come from natural gas and renewable sources like solar and wind power.

A push to use energy more efficiently is expected to help in the fight against climate change, Dr. Birol said, citing predictions that world energy use is expected to rise more slowly than in the past, even in the face of continued economic growth.

Tim Buckley, an analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a progressive research organization based in Cleveland, said that the decline of coal and the explosion in low-cost renewable energy provided a simple lesson: “Those who exit fossil fuels and embrace solar and wind will reap financial rewards and avoid stranded assets.”

“Stranded assets” is a term applied to fossil fuel reserves such as oil, coal and natural gas that are still in the ground; in many scenarios of addressing climate change, companies would not be able to exploit their reserves. Oil companies like Exxon Mobil have disputed the issue. The new report states that unless governments work hard to address the issue for a smooth and orderly transition away from fossil fuels, “there is a risk that major losses will be incurred.”

Full article: Paris Climate Deal Is Too Weak to Meet Goals, Report Finds

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