Renewables are expected to gain in prevalence on the energy grid, though subsidies will be key to the sector's success, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.
IEA's World Energy Outlook report examines coal, oil, renewable energy – including wind, biofuels and solar – and natural gas. Latest figures reveal that while fossil fuels remain the leading source of energy, renewables are also expected to gain "market share," becoming the second largest power source worldwide by 2015.
Though fossil fuels lead the industry, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance brought specific attention to the report's figures on fossil fuel subsidies. The report found that "despite the growth in lowcarbon sources of energy, fossil fuels remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that amounted to $523 billion in 2011, up almost 30% on 2010 and six times more than subsidies to renewables."
However, the report also concluded that renewables will not continue to grow to the projected popularity unless current subsidies, too, for the renewable sector remain intact.
"In 2011, [renewable] subsidies (including for biofuels) amounted to $88 billion, but over the period to 2035 need to amount to $4.8 trillion; over half of this has already been committed to existing projects or is needed to meet 2020 targets," the report found.
Still, Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, says biofuels are a way to avoid fossil fuel use.
”We cannot continue to rely on and subsidize a dependence on crude oil that continues to hamper economic growth when biofuels are already making a significant contribution to the global economy,” Baker said. “Evidence shows that increasing global biofuels production will not only break or cripple addiction to crude oil but positively impact our economy and our environment."
Energy efficiency was also a focus of the report. New energy security measures from top energy consuming countries have been increasingly focused on efficiency, the report found, citing the U.S. adoption of fuel economy standards.
“This year’s World Energy Outlook shows that by 2035, we can achieve energy savings equivalent to nearly a fifth of global demand in 2010. In other words, energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply, and increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits," said Maria van der Hoeven, IEA executive director.