Renewable energy's sliver of the multi-trillion dollar economic stimulus announced by the world's biggest economies falls far short of the investment needed to meet carbon emissions targets, the head of the International Energy Agency said on Monday.
The IEA, which advises 28 industrialized countries on energy, estimates that only about $20 billion out of a total of $2.6 trillion in economic aid announced in the economic crisis by the G20 countries will go toward renewable power, with only $100 billion or 5 percent for the wider goal of cleaner and more efficient energy use.
The current stimulus packages are an important step, Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA, told a coal conference in London.
But they are insufficient to get us over the line to a cleaner more sustainable energy future ... The IEA is therefore calling for governments worldwide to truly embrace a new clean energy deal and coal has a place within that deal.
Tanaka said that renewable power generation, including large hydropower plants, had to more than double its share in total electricity supply to 40 percent by 2030 to help keep carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere below 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2030, a level generally considered low enough to keep global warming to a manageable 2 degrees Celsius.
This renewable energy increase is huge because to achieve this level we have to build about 18,000 wind turbines every year from now to 2030, or 50 hydro plants every year, or 300 solar concentrating power plants every year, he said.
To achieve the necessary level of the 450 ppm scenario this is not enough, we have to increase by six times this amount, he said.
Tanaka said a four-fold increase in investment to 400 billion dollars would be needed in the wider drive to limit emissions through energy efficiency improvements and cleaner energy -- including carbon capture and storage to bury climate warming gases produced when burning coal, gas or oil.
But with the IEA estimating renewable energy investment will drop by about 38 percent in 2009 compared to 2008 because of the economic crisis, government stimulus plans are crucial to ensuring the success of the global warming fight.
The current economic and financial crisis is really having a significant impact on these low carbon technologies and investment, Tanaka told the coal conference organized by think tank Chatham House.
He said almost 60 percent of the carbon cuts in non-OECD countries should come from energy efficiency improvements, while OECD countries should aim to get 54 percent of their 2030 target cuts by using energy more efficiently.
(Reporting by Daniel Fineren)