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IEA: Progress too slow on global energy goals

2 May 2018

The world is not on track to meet the global energy targets set as part of the UN 2030 “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDG), according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and four other international agencies. While global energy trends are disappointing, progress is being made in certain areas—particularly expansion of access to electricity in least developed countries and industrial energy efficiency.

Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report is a comprehensive look at the world’s progress towards the global energy targets on access to electricity, clean cooking, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Renewable Energy. The world’s renewable energy share in total final energy consumption has remained relatively stable at around 17% for the last 30 years (16.65% in 1990; 16.67% in 2010; 17.30% in 2014; 17.45% in 2015). Based on current policies, the renewable share is expected to reach 21% by 2030, falling short of the substantial increase demanded by the SDG7 target, says the IEA.

In 2015, most of the 17.45% share of renewables represented solid biofuel use, such as firewood (traditional use: 7.88%; modern use: 3.67%). The remaining forms of renewable energy were hydro at 3.26%, liquid biofuels at 0.91%; wind at 0.70%; solar at 0.56%; geothermal at 0.18%; and other (biogas, renewable waste, marine) at 0.29%.

Share of individual renewable energy sources in global total final energy consumption, 1990 – 2015 (Source: IEA)

While falling costs have allowed solar and wind to make gains in the electricity sector in multiple regions, the combined share of wind and solar in world’s total energy consumption has reached only 1.26% in 2015—a figure that is hardly consistent with the common narrative of “energy revolution”.

The share of renewable energy in transport is rising quite rapidly, but from a very low base, amounting to only 2.8% in 2015. The use of renewable energy for heating purposes has barely increased in recent years and stood at 24.8% in 2015.

Energy Efficiency. The report finds that there is “mounting evidence of the uncoupling of growth and energy use”. Global gross domestic product (GDP) grew nearly twice as fast as primary energy supply in 2010-15. Economic growth outpaced growth in energy use in all regions, except for Western Asia, where GDP is heavily tied to energy-intensive industries. However, progress continues to be slow in low income countries, where energy intensity is higher than the global average.

Globally, energy intensity—the ratio of energy used per unit of GDP—fell on average by 2.2% per annum for the period 2010-2015. However, performance still falls short of the 2.6% yearly decline needed to meet the SDG7 target of doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

Improvement in industrial energy intensity, at 2.7% per annum since 2010, was particularly encouraging, as this is the largest energy consuming sector overall. Progress in the transport sector was more modest, especially for freight transportation, and is a particular challenge for high-income countries.

Six of the 20 countries that represent 80% of the world’s total primary energy supply, including Japan and the USA, reduced their annual primary energy supply in 2010-15 while continuing to grow GDP. Among the large energy-intensive developing economies, China and Indonesia stood out with annual improvement exceeding 3%.

Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report is a joint effort of the IEA, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO). It is the fourth edition of this report, formerly known as the Global Tracking Framework (GTF). Funding for the report was provided by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).

Source: IEA