Thursday 29 March 2012
When it comes to “the energy transition”, there are no simple solutions. Most people would agree that it would be desirable if we could switch from fossil fuels to “renewable energies”, if the costs can be limited. But those who know their numbers know that at the moment this is still a dream.
The term renewable energy can usually be translated, in the European context, into simply wind and solar power. Clearly the world can’t be run on wind power, however valuable a contribution it may make. Solar power seems to offer more potential – in the long run. And yes, there’s biomass, but technological breakthroughs in next-generation biofuels are needed to make this a feasible solution.
Nuclear power is low-carbon of course, but has a host of other problems that guarantee it is not going to save the world. And we have carbon capture and storage, which may be necessary, but can never be more than a fall-back option.
The fact is, fossil fuels were – and are – a kind of miracle solution to mankind’s energy needs. And it’s not easy to replace a miracle. The “energy transition”, if it succeeds, is going to be a long hard struggle.
This struggle may perhaps be led on a global level by IRENA – the International Renewable Energy Agency. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi and established three years ago to spread the blessings of renewable energy over the world, IRENA now has an impressive number of 157 states backing it. It may well be seen as the United Nations of renewable energy.
Yet this may be precisely one of its weaknesses, says researcher Thijs Van de Graaf, who specializes in the study of international energy institutions. Because of its large membership, IRENA may be less flexible and purposive than its “rival”, the International Energy Agency, which has only the countries of the OECD to reckon with. A lot will depend on IRENA herself and her (relatively) new top man, Adnan Amin, who took over from Hélène Pelosse after a very stormy first 18 months of the new agency.
In an article for EER, Van de Graaf sketches the turbulent short history of IRENA – complete with mythic hero, phone bugs, and diplomatic turf wars backed by large amounts of cash – and takes stock of what the future role of IRENA could be, especially in relation to the IEA. For now he does not expect miracles.
You can read Thijs’ intriguing story by clicking here.
You may also be interested in checking out our section New Energy Publications on our homepage, in which we regularly highlight important new (and freely available) energy publications. This time, for instance, an interesting new report on carbon capture and storage (CCS) for gas-fired power plants from the UK Green Alliance.
Meanwhile, on our European Energy Blog you can find the latest energy news from the website oilprice.com and other items that may be of interest.
Thank you for joining us!
Coming up on European Energy Review
Banking on Saudi Arabia
The future of the EU gas market (and the “gas target model”)
Interview with Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of RWE Innogy
Whither UK nuclear energy policy?
Vestas and the future of the European wind turbine industry
§ Interview with Jean-François Cirelli, President of Eurogas and CEO of GDF Suez
by Sonja van Renssen
As the dust from Durban settles, the mountain left for world governments to climb to agree a new global climate treaty by 2015 is coming sharply into focus. The generous rhetoric of the UN climate conference last December is rapidly giving way to the defensive language of entrenched positions. The future of international climate policy hangs in the balance, reports Sonja van Renssen.
by Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director, International Energy Agency
A number of governments in Europe are introducing measures limiting their financial support for renewable energy. These moves should not be viewed as a backlash against renewables, argues Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). On the contrary, they show that renewable energy is coming of age. Van der Hoeven does warn, however, that policy changes should be made in a transparent and predictable way.
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by Matthew Hulbert
With Presidential elections approaching, and oil prices showing no signs of dropping, the temptation for the Obama Administration to release strategic oil stocks becomes ever greater. Such a move, for short-term electoral reasons, would seriously hurt the credibility of the oil emergency scheme of the International Energy Agency (IEA), argues Matthew Hulbert. “Asian consumption of Iranian oil is the only safety valve left from making the IEA look very silly.”
by Karel Beckman
What the world needs to keep up with the strong global growth in energy in the coming decades is two things above all: Iraq – and shale gas. That is the view of Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency. “If it does not come from Iraq, I don’t see where significant production growth will come from”, he notes in an interview with European Energy Review. And he has news on the shale gas front: the IEA is preparing, with a number of governments, a set of “best practices” for shale gas production.
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