Sustainable Energy

IEA calls for 'dramatic' scaling up of clean energy tech to meet climate goals

Key Points
  • International Energy Agency says emissions are still at "unsustainably high" levels. 
  • Calls for focus on areas such as electrification and hydrogen. 
Sebastian Rothe | EyeEm | Getty Images

A "dramatic" scaling up of clean energy technologies will be required if the world is to reach its climate and energy goals, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In a report published on Thursday, the Paris-based body said that while calls to cut greenhouse gas emissions were "growing louder every year," emissions were still at levels it described as being "unsustainably high."

"Global CO2 emissions are set to fall in 2020 because of the Covid-19 crisis, but without structural changes to the energy system, this decline will be only temporary," the IEA added.

The Energy Technology Perspectives 2020 report explained that solely focusing on moving the world's power sector to clean energy sources would not be enough to achieve net zero emissions.

Sectors ranging from transport and industry to buildings would also be required to transition toward these types of technologies, it said. A focus on electrification would be needed alongside other technologies such as bioenergy, carbon capture and hydrogen, it added.

In a statement issued alongside the report on Thursday, the IEA emphasized the importance of hydrogen. The organization said it was, "expected to play a large and varied role in helping the world reach net-zero emissions by forming a bridge between the power sector and industries where the direct use of electricity would be challenging, such as steel and shipping."

The IEA's report came on the same day that data out of the United States showed how the coronavirus pandemic continued to affect the renewable energy sector in some parts of the country.  

The U.S. Solar Market Insight Q3 2020 report, citing data compiled by the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie, said 3.5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity was installed in the second quarter of 2020, a 6% fall compared to installations in the first three months of the year.

Breaking the figures down, installations in the residential section of the industry saw a drop of 23%, while the non-residential sector saw a quarter-over-quarter decline of 12%. In an announcement, the SEIA put these drops down to "restrictions and shelter-in-place orders imposed to curb the pandemic."

Austin Perea, a senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, noted that the impact of the pandemic on residential installations had "varied substantially by geography."

"States with more restrictive stay-at-home orders saw significant declines in quarterly solar additions, whereas states with less restrictive stay-at-home directives – such as Arizona and Texas – saw marginal if any decline in quarterly installations," Perea added.