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Accelerating switch to renewables could put fossil fuel peak in sight this decade: IEA

(ABC) -- Almost half of the world’s electricity could come from emissions-free sources such as wind, solar and nuclear by the end of the decade according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

After a rush of spending in new capacity, there's soon expected to be a gas "glut". --Photo ABC

In its latest outlook for global energy supplies, the agency also projected there could be 10 times as many electric vehicles on roads by 2030, while heat pumps would outsell fossil fuel-fired hot water heaters.
But the report came with a warning that “stronger measures” would be needed to avoid a situation in which global temperatures rose more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
It acknowledged that the share of coal, gas and oil in the world’s energy supply was still about 80 percent — where it had been for decades — though predicted this would fall to 73 percent by 2030.
“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.
“It’s not a question of if, it’s just a matter of how soon — and the sooner the better for all of us.”
The IEA, a club of mostly rich nations, noted its report was coming at a time of “high geopolitical tensions and uncertainty” for energy users amid conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Russia and Ukraine conflict last year sent fossil fuel prices into orbit, prompting governments around the world to spend an eye-watering $US900 billion ($1.4 trillion) in emergency support for consumers, the IEA found.
Although coal and gas prices have fallen significantly from their 2022 highs, oil prices have been rising again, edging towards 2022 levels.
Dr Birol, in his foreword to the report, drew parallels between the upheaval now and the oil crisis of the 1970s, which smashed most major economies and provided the impetus for the creation of the IEA.
However, he said there were also key differences between that era and today.
For starters, he said, countries then were moving “from a standing start as they scrambled to respond to the oil shock”, but they now had the solutions at their fingertips. He said the enormous investments that had been made in the energy transition meant there was scope to push much harder on the deployment of the clean technologies.
“Today, solar, wind, efficiency and electric cars are all well established and readily available — and their advantages are only being reinforced by turbulence among the traditional technologies,” he said.
“We have the lasting solutions to today’s energy dilemmas at our disposal.”
The IEA pointed out the manufacturing capacity for green technologies such as EVs and heat pumps was increasing all the time.
To that end, it noted that one in five cars sold in America was now electric compared with one in 25 just three years ago.
Similarly, it said that heat pumps were now outselling traditional gas-fired boilers in the European Union — a ratio that was expected to be two-to-one within seven years.
Most strikingly, the IEA said the capacity for solar power to change the global supply mix was huge.
The Paris-based group said renewable energy sources were set to contribute 80 per cent of new power capacity by 2030, “with solar … alone accounting for more than half”.
And it noted that by the end of the decade, the world’s solar manufacturing capacity could total 1,200 gigawatts a year — an amount almost 20 times greater than the capacity of Australia’s biggest electricity system.
“Boosting deployment up from these levels raises some complex questions,” the IEA wrote. “It would require measures — notably expanding and strengthening grids and adding storage — to integrate the additional solar PV [photovoltaic] into electricity systems and maximise its impact.
“Manufacturing capacity is also highly concentrated: China is already the largest producer and its expansion plans far outstrip those in other countries. “Trade, therefore, would continue to be vital to support worldwide deployment of solar.”
On top of its role as the world’s dominant renewable energy manufacturer, the IEA said China would also have an outsized influence on demand for fossil fuels in the years ahead.

(Latest Update October 25, 2023)

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