Darkening economy must not undermine energy security

Efforts to ensure a secure energy supply and reduce greenhouse gas emissions must not be derailed by the darkening economic forecasts.

This is the central message of the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), an organisation set up after the oil crisis of the 1970s to advise governments around the world on energy policy.

Every year the IEA publishes a flagship report looking at the 12 months ahead, the World Energy Outlook.

As might be expected, this year's offering is overshadowed by the growing economic crisis - but warns against allowing energy spending to fall by the wayside.

"We cannot let the financial and economic crisis delay the policy action that is urgently needed to ensure secure energy supplies and to curtail rising emissions of greenhouse gases," said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA at the London launch of the publication.

"We must usher in a global energy revolution by improving energy efficiency and increasing the deployment of low-carbon energy."

The WEO-2008 provides analysis that aims to help policy makers around the world assess and address the challenges posed by worsening oil supply prospects, higher energy prices and rising emissions of greenhouse gases.

Predictions for energy demand from 2006 to 2030 show a growth of 1.6% per year on average - slower than the rise predicted in last year's WEO, mainly due to the impact of the economic slowdown, prospects for higher energy prices and some new policy initiatives.

According to the report's predictions, modern renewables grow most rapidly, overtaking gas to become the second-largest source of electricity soon after 2010.

China and India account for over half of incremental energy demand to 2030 while the Middle East emerges as a major new demand centre.

The share of the world's energy consumed in cities grows from two-thirds to almost three-quarters in 2030.

Almost all of the increase in fossil-energy production occurs in non-OECD countries.

Yet the credit squeeze could delay spending, potentially setting up a supply-crunch that could choke economic recovery.

"Current trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable - environmentally, economically and socially - they can and must be altered," said Nobuo Tanaka.

"Rising imports of oil and gas into OECD regions and developing Asia, together with the growing concentration of production in a small number of countries, would increase our susceptibility to supply disruptions and sharp price hikes. At the same time, greenhouse-gas emissions would be driven up inexorably, putting the world on track for an eventual global temperature increase of up to 6°C.

"One thing is certain," said Mr Tanaka, "while market imbalances will feed volatility, the era of cheap oil is over."

Sam Bond


| renewables


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