Moving Towards Renewable Energy Sources – The Journey So Far

The world uses more energy today than ever before – roughly 575 quadrillion Btu (2015), according to the US Energy Information Agency.

Although serious improvements in how we create and store energy mean the resource is cheaper and more accessible than ever, we’re still largely drawing from a finite and quite problematic well.

Thankfully, renewable energy sources have the potential to fuel our energy appetite without destroying our planet, and this is driving a race towards the green economy. But how’s that going?

The journey towards green energy

For several years now, renewable energy has been steadily gaining on fossil fuels as a major energy source. In 2020, renewable energy production reached an all-time high of 200 gigawatts, outpacing new installations in fossil fuels. In fact, of the entire energy sector, green energy was the only part to experience growth in 2020.

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In my opinion, much of this growth can be attributed to changing attitudes towards sustainable energy sources, both from within corporate boardrooms and government chambers. There’s a steady recognition that:

  • Fossil fuel sources are exhaustible and not easily replenished (often taking millions of years). While the world still has massive stores to draw on, these will eventually run out.
  • Fossil fuel use is not only decimating our physical environment; it’s slowly warming up the earth – and this is a critical precursor of devastating climate change.

Although there’s still significant pushback from global political and industrial action groups, countries and corporate bodies around the world are taking concrete action with increased investments in solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal energy sources in what is now being termed something of an “energy arms race”.

Are we making any headway?

Despite all of the noise about green energy, however, there has been much less progress than desired. According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), while the share of new clean energy installations has outpaced new fossil fuel installations, the big picture still looks bleak.

Global energy demand has matched pace with renewables since 2009, meaning that in real terms, sustainable energy still only contributes a negligible amount to global consumption. REN21’s Renewables Global Status Report 2021 indicates that renewable energy accounts for only 11% of global energy use, up from 9% in 2009.

Although clean energy in electricity generation particularly is steadily growing, there are still significant questions over application in energy-intensive industrial processes. For instance, cement kilns require up to 1,400° C of heat, but this is challenging to produce without burning energy-dense fuels that sustainable sources do not currently provide at scale.

In addition to this, there is still significant foot-dragging from the worst climate offenders, with many lacking the political will to do more than make minute adjustments. As REN21 reports, “Most of the world’s largest countries and greatest emitters of greenhouse gases lack clear, economy-wide objectives to shift to renewables in all sectors.”

As I see it, more targeted and sustained action is necessary if we are to meet the demands of clean energy investment and truly begin to chart a course towards a world powered by renewable energy.

Where finance must meet science

I believe that some of the biggest obstacles we currently face in pushing towards green energy are difficulties of science and finance, and this is also where we might find their solutions.

While we have seen great leaps in renewable technologies like solar photovoltaic cells and artificial carbon sinks, the technology doesn’t scale well enough at present. But this might be due to insufficient investment in the necessary science.

REN21 reports that global investment in green energy reached $303 billion in 2020, a mere 2% increase over the previous year, while annual investment must at least triple by 2030 if the world will reach its climate and sustainable development goals.

With greater investment in clean energy tech, the world stands a better chance of creating a breakthrough that not only makes a wholesale shift to a green economy possible, but also profitable. However, this progress might only come when the world of finance pushes on by itself rather than wait for government to lead the way.

The latest frontier in drinking water production

From my point of view, a sensible ecological transition must not make us forget about mankind. As Westerners, our focus is on increasing the share of renewable energy in comparison to fossil fuels.

The main resource that humans need is fresh water, before any other form of food and energy. I was particularly interested in the work of an innovative NGO.


The NGO GivePower has constructed and installed the first solar-powered water treatment plant on the coast of Kiunga, Kenya, to make seawater safe to drink. A revolutionary system that could change the lives of people forced to live in such poverty that it makes it difficult to afford basic necessities and solve the problems associated with the future availability of clean water caused by relentless climate change.

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This system, powered by solar energy, could be a lasting solution to the problem of lack of clean water that affects a large part of the world’s population and could become even more severe due to the dramatic effects of climate change.

Water is a precious commodity and essential for human survival, but the speed at which climate change is progressing suggests that its scarcity could increase, with devastating consequences for all of humanity.

It is estimated that by 2028, half of the world’s population will live in areas threatened by water scarcity. Freshwater, which currently accounts for 2.5% of the world’s water, is being drastically reduced due to global warming, which is affecting glaciers and icebergs and causing them to slowly disappear.

Although these doomsday scenarios are still far from the imagination of the segment of society accustomed to living in affluent conditions, the major problem of inaccessibility to fresh water is real and currently affects some 2.2 billion people worldwide.

A recent report by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation found that one in three people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and use contaminated or untreated water for washing, cooking and drinking.

The situation is particularly critical in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s why it was decided that Kenya was the most appropriate place to start testing this revolutionary plant, which has been turning salt water from the Indian Ocean into drinking water for about a year, improving the lives of the people of Kiunga.

A significant revolution for a village that is regularly hit by drought for part of the year, forcing its inhabitants to travel for about an hour before reaching the first available source: a well connected to a reservoir whose water is dirty and contaminated by potentially deadly parasites.

The success of this first plant has prompted the NGO to set up other plants to address and solve the problem of drinking water scarcity in different parts of the world, such as Colombia and Haiti.

The facility developed and built in just one month is called Solar Water Farm and required an investment of $500,000.

The solar farm is a desalination plant. It includes the installation of solar panels capable of producing 50 kilowatts of energy, high-performance Tesla batteries to store the energy produced and two water pumps that run 24 hours a day.

Unlike traditional desalination plants, which consume large amounts of energy and make the process extremely expensive, Solar Water Farm manages to produce better quality water without causing negative environmental impacts, usually generated by the extraction of salt, which produces polluting residues harmful to animals and plants.

The facility, located along the coast of the town of Kiunga, Kenya, uses advanced filtration systems to turn salt water from the ocean into drinking water.

The ambition is big, and it’s all the more inspiring for it! Every 90 seconds a child dies as a direct or indirect consequence of lack of water…

Why hydrogen is becoming more interesting

There is a lot of interest and hope in hydrogen, but what exactly are we discussing?

I hear a lot about hydrogen and it is difficult for me to understand exactly what is involved. So here’s why I’m offering a perspective after doing a fair degree of research.


Hydrogen is an extremely common element: 90% of the universe is composed of hydrogen (H) atoms. It is important to note that, like electricity, hydrogen is an energy carrier. It is an element that is used to transport energy from point A to point B.

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The main advantage of hydrogen is its high energy density. One kilo of hydrogen can store three times more energy than one kilo of petrol, and one hundred times more than the best electric batteries!

This characteristic makes it possible to consider hydrogen as a very interesting alternative for the transport sector. Hydrogen increases the range of vehicles, especially those that travel long distances (cars, trains, heavy vehicles). Moreover, hydrogen is a gas; filling up a vehicle with a gas is much faster. While it takes 6 to 8 hours to recharge a vehicle’s electric battery, it only takes a few minutes for an electric vehicle that runs on hydrogen. Hydrogen allows both more energy to be carried, and therefore allows for longer distances to be travelled, and for a faster recharge.

However, at present, 95% of the world’s hydrogen production is made from fossil carbon resources (oil, coal, natural gas). For this reason, it is referred to as grey hydrogen. This production emits greenhouse gases and is therefore unsustainable in the event of a massive increase in the use of hydrogen.

Another option is to produce hydrogen from a very simple reaction: water electrolysis. An electric current is passed through water (H2O), which separates two molecules: hydrogen (H2) on the one hand and oxygen (O2) on the other. This process makes it possible to produce pure hydrogen in a clean way, provided that the electricity used to produce it is clean and therefore of renewable origin. Anyone interested in energy and ecological transition issues has therefore heard of hydrogen. But we can only talk about green hydrogen if it is produced from green electricity. This is where the challenge lies for an industrial scale roll-out.

The obstacles are not technological, since progress in this area has been remarkable in recent years. The issue is rather that of the primary energy source: green electricity, from photovoltaic, hydraulic or wind sources for example, must be available to produce green hydrogen. We know that the production of this type of energy is currently limited, so this is where we need to concentrate our efforts.

The state of affairs has changed considerably over the last 20 years. The technology is now advanced enough to allow its application in industrial tools and systems. The progress in performance is enormous. At the same time, the energy efficiency of fuel cells has been improved and prices have been reduced by a factor of 30 in 20 years. Cheaper and more efficient, the hydrogen sector has reached technological maturity.

At this point, I really think that hydrogen is a major asset in the transition to all-electricity. Europe is continuing to develop the sector, but the example is currently being set by Japan, which has the largest hydrogen-powered car fleet in the world and is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050, thanks in large part to hydrogen.

I, myself, hope that the Japanese theoretical model can be applied as a practical model.

The Fight Against Plastic Waste at Sea

As a lover of the sea, I can’t help but be concerned about the way we treat our most precious resource. The facts are there for all to see, below are some of the things that have struck me.

Since the 1950s, the production of waste and in particular plastic has increased exponentially: from a few million tonnes in 1950 to over 300 million tonnes in recent years

Currently, about 8 million tonnes of waste are dumped into the marine environment each year. This figure is expected to increase further over the coming decades, with serious implications for the marine environment and human health, unless improvements are made in waste management and its prevention.

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What can be done to limit this problem? Do we have solutions to prevent, monitor and cleanse our seas of marine litter? If so, which ones and how many? In fact, there are tens of thousands of solutions, but of these, only a hundred or so have been considered as innovative solutions, other than simple recycling or reduction of waste production, to confront the problem.

It is vital, not just for our species, that we tackle plastics first. It is the most common waste we find in our seas, but there are also other lesser studied materials, such as glass and metal, to name but a few. All these materials make up marine litter. Of these, plastic is the most studied, both at the macroscopic level as well as at the micro and nanoscopic levels. In the first case, it is plastic waste visible to the naked eye that causes direct damage to wildlife, endangering the lives of animals that accidentally ingest it. In the second case, they are small materials with dimensions similar to those of viruses (we speak of microplastics if they are smaller than 5 mm, and nanoplastics between 1 and 100 nanometres), which can be easily ingested by marine organisms, such as zooplankton and fish, cross biological barriers and enter the circulation and even the food chain, reaching humans with consequences that are still unknown today.

I have heard about innovative solutions, but what does that mean in practice? These are solutions, including technologies, that have been used for the first time to prevent, monitor and remove waste of various sizes from waters and coastal areas and have proven to be both suitable and effective. These technologies were selected using databases from projects funded by the European Commission (CORDIS, ESA, EMFF), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the UNEP-sponsored Coordinating Body for the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), scientific papers and crowdfunding platforms.

From the 20,000 results obtained from these databases, 180 were selected as possible solutions, either manual or automated, to prevent litter, including macro- and microplastics, from entering river mouths, to monitor their presence on beaches or in the open sea, and to remove marine litter from coastal areas, the sea surface and the seabed. These solutions include conveyor belts to collect and remove macro-waste floating on the sea surface; drones, GPS trackers and autonomous underwater vehicles to detect areas of widespread marine litter and monitor them over time; floating barriers to prevent the accumulation of litter; and nets, pumps and filters to sample microplastics.

Solutions were selected taking into account several aspects: for example, applicability to the prevention, monitoring and disposal of general or specific marine litter (e.g. plastic, glass) and/or particular size classes (e.g. macro, micro, nano litter); another selection criterion was methodological, technological or engineering innovation.

This would explain why, according to my understanding, out of the tens of thousands of solutions analysed, very few have become a technological reality or are on the market. Most of the solutions have only been demonstrated on a small scale, e.g. in the laboratory, reaching a low level of technological advancement (for specialists the so-called TRL – Technology Readiness Level). We are well aware that many solutions have the potential to prevent, monitor and clean up our seas of waste on a global scale, but that very often they do not go beyond the planning stage due to a lack of funding. The European Union seems to have already recognised this limitation and the new European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon Europe for the period 2021-2027 differentiates calls according to the level of technological advancement.

It therefore seems to me that a simple series of recommendations would be sufficient to make significant progress on these issues. These include, for example, new investments to improve existing solutions that have not yet become technological realities, but also synergy and collaboration between the various promoters of these solutions (scientists, NGOs, industries, public and private bodies) to improve existing technologies and develop new ones. It seems essential to strengthen waste management measures at national and international level, working on both the reduction of waste at source and its elimination from the environment, with a vision of a circular economy, for the sustainable development of our seas.

The future of maritime transport may lie in aviation

Ever since I was a child, I have been very interested in shipping. I remember that I couldn’t understand why all boats weren’t powered like my toy…with batteries.

Later I understood, and now, it gives me the opportunity to tell you about a sailing company. Although its name might not reflect it, Brittany Ferries is a French company.  It is particularly innovative and is banking on a two-stage electric future. It is this aspect that is of particular interest to me.

Firstly, two new ships will be joining the fleet, with a combined LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and electric propulsion system. This “optimised hybrid” system should eventually enable a total reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of 10 and 20% to be achieved, according to the company, a performance that is “set to progress as and when shore power sockets are installed in the ports allowing batteries to be recharged by shore power”.

If LNG is considered very encouraging, with the energy giant Shell having recently placed an order for 40 tankers, the hybrid version is much more promising. Indeed, it is conceivable that with the expected performance of new types of batteries (Sodium-Ion, Lithium-Sulphur, solid state batteries), new fully electric ships will emerge.

Brittany Ferries, however, is looking one step further. In the 1970s, the Soviet army developed a type of aircraft called the Ekranoplan, which was designed primarily for military use. It was designed to take advantage of a well-known aerodynamic effect: the ground effect.

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Without wishing to go into the physical and technical details here, which may bore my readers, it should simply be remembered that an aircraft flying very low on a flat surface (ideally water) uses much less energy. Man has taken the example of certain large birds that take advantage of this effect (swans, giant petrels, kori bustards, etc).

The next step for Brittany Ferries is therefore to bring the Soviet Ekranoplan up to date. This will be done by joining forces with the start-up Regent (Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport) based in Boston, USA.
Indeed, the French maritime operator aims to create a new mode of fast, sustainable and efficient maritime transport, the Seaglider.

A partnership agreement has been signed to participate in the design and development of Seagliders with a capacity of 50 to 150 passengers sailing between the UK and France by 2028. Regent expects the first commercial crossings to be on smaller electric boats from 2025.

A ferry… flying at 290km/h!

The Seaglider principle combines the manoeuvrability of ferries with the aerial efficiency of hovercraft and the speed of aircraft. These “gliders” on the sea, which could connect existing ports, should reach the impressive speed of 290 kilometres per hour.

After leaving the harbour, the Seaglider rises on its foils, and in the open sea it takes off on its air cushion, flying at a low altitude, which allows for comfortable sailing over the waves to the port of arrival, where it lands again on its foils, ensuring passenger comfort. In the open sea, it launches on a cushion of air to the port of arrival. Electric propeller motors on the wings provide sufficient thrust for take-off, and regulate the necessary airflow generating sufficient lift for take-off and flight.

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Seagliders would therefore be a very efficient mode of transport, capable of moving relatively large loads over long distances and at high speeds. The energy required would be provided exclusively by electric batteries recharged at the dockside.  Safety would be ensured by redundant propulsion systems, as well as by new generation radars that would automatically detect and bypass obstacles at sea.

I am excited about this type of technical innovation, especially since it’s associated with one of my great passions; the sea. I am looking forward to seeing a Seaglider in action!

Nuclear waste, a utilitarian thought

John Stuart Mill, in the 19th century, defined utilitarianism as a doctrine that makes the useful, that which serves life or happiness, the principle of all values in the field of knowledge as well as in that of action.

For most of us, and I am obviously no exception, energy is paramount in our professional and leisure activities. Of course, I personally favour electrical energy, but the question of its origin always remains. In Europe, just over 30% of energy comes from nuclear sources.

I have already mentioned this subject in a previous article explaining why nuclear fusion energy will replace fission energy in a few decades, without waste and without risk. In the meantime, we will have to continue to manage the waste resulting from fusion. But it is very surprising to me to see that, as much as humanity can show vanity and presumptuousness, sometimes it does not believe in itself or in its capacities.

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For example, the first thing that comes to mind and that we hear in the media is that it will take hundreds of thousands of years to significantly reduce the danger of nuclear waste. So we are putting future generations at risk. Really?

By being a little provocative, can we seriously think that radioactivity discovered only in 1895 by Henri Becquerel will remain in its current state of research concerning, in particular, waste? If in a little over a century we have been able to domesticate atomic fission and soon fusion, there is no reason why in future years a means will not be found to eliminate the danger of waste.  In the meantime, recycling channels are at work, and currently in France 96% of waste is recovered/reused, only 4% is so-called “ultimate” waste that needs to be stored.

Some countries, such as Finland, which obtains almost 32% of its energy from the atom, are devising intelligent strategies, even if mankind is unable to recycle 100% of its waste. Firstly, the location of a nuclear power plant is determined by where the waste is stored, i.e. in the immediate vicinity. Secondly, the safety of the burial of the waste must be envisaged for a very long period of time, even if future generations forget where it is located.

Accordingly, Finland has already begun digging a tomb designed to withstand the next ice age.  It lies exactly 437 m below the ground on Olkiluoto, an island in the Baltic Sea on the west coast of Finland. There, special guests will rest: radioactive waste that will remain so for hundreds of thousands of years. The temperature is a constant 11 degrees Celsius.

The underground labyrinth of 200 tunnels will eventually be almost 70 km long. Up to 3,250 spaces will be created where the so-called “capsules” will be stored. These will contain the used nuclear fuel. Onkalo (the translation of Finnish means burrow), the name of this site, is a veritable sarcophagus.

Fourfold protection is in place because the used fuel packages, which contain uranium and other radioactive elements such as plutonium, will be inserted into a steel cylinder, which is itself covered by a 5 cm thick copper cylinder to prevent corrosion.

The minimum duration of this protection is 100,000 years, making it the longest-lasting man-made object. The capsules will then be buried in holes at regular intervals in the Onkalo tunnels. They will be surrounded by blocks of bentonite, a type of clay found underground. Once the capsules have been placed, the tunnels themselves will be gradually filled with clay. Above this, 400 m of extremely stable granitic rock, which has not moved for two billion years.

For the time being, therefore, there is no ideal solution while waiting for the “energy of the stars”, i.e. fusion. Thus, the usefulness (no pun intended) of remembering the teaching of John Stuart Mill. I cannot resist adding a thought from Marie Curie:

“In life nothing is to be feared, everything is to be understood.”

Electric cars or missed opportunities?

If I told you that a very elegant lady waits for her electric car to be charged, undoubtedly everyone would be expecting to see a lady dressed in Prada or Dior next to a Tesla, Polestar or an EQC. However, this is not the case, as the photo illustrating my point shows, and which dates back to…1912.

This seems like a long time ago, yet the rechargeable battery had already been invented nearly 50 years earlier, in 1859 by Gaston Planté and the concept was improved in 1881 by Camille Faure.


In 1884, Thomas Parker, a British inventor was already able to pose next to his “Electric Cart”. Then, in 1900, another Camille, Camille Jenatzy broke the world land speed record with the first automobile surpassing 100km/h. Its name was ‘La Jamais Contente’ (The never Contented) and had 68 horsepower.

At the same time, in the streets of New York, 38% of the automotive market consisted of electric vehicles. This figure is simply astounding, while in 2021, they represent, across the entire planet, just 10million vehicles, out of 1.5 billon (0,000005%) traditional vehicles. 

These facts give… to me at least, a sensation that goes beyond vertigo, an impression of a considerable opportunity missed for humanity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine at what stage the evolution of electric cars would be at if fossil fuels hadn’t taken advantage. Range wouldn’t be a problem and full charging would take no more than a few seconds.

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Instead of this, hundreds of millions of deaths, even more illnesses occur each year due to harmful emissions. Our planet is polluted, and the global damage is enormous. For more than a century, car manufacturers have only, and very slowly, improved internal combustion engines. They have lived off their profits without serious investment in new technologies, except for a few timid attempts with hydrogen-powered vehicles. All they had to do was change the shape of the headlights, increase the power a little and convince you, with enormous marketing resources, that you had to change your vehicle…

If electricity had been developed as extensively as fossil fuel engines, we would now have electric airplanes, electric boats and not just electric trains.

Obviously, my statement may seem obvious, in hindsight everyone is smarter and can give lessons. However, this is not the goal.  The real goal for me is to modestly contribute to raise awareness of a biomimetic approach. This approach is by nature, interdisciplinary. The starting point is given by fundamental research which observes, analyses and models the living. The most interesting biological models are then taken up by the engineering sciences which translate them into technical concepts. Finally, entrepreneurs take over and move on to industrial development.

If nature has not created an internal combustion engine for its needs, it is because there are better ways. Electricity is present everywhere, at the level of each atom, each molecule of the universe, including in the neurons and synapses of the reader who is now finishing this text.

So instead, let’s take more inspiration from nature, as we have done for thousands of years, the industrial era has often taken us away from this model.

Let’s all change this state of affairs!

Do you really know the “cost of using” your technology?

It’s not unusual for the younger generations consider their elders, typically of their parents age, as selfish, having emphasised their personal comfort and favouring a society of unrestrained consumption. All of this by destroying precious natural resources and by creating numerous sources of pollution.

This can’t be denied, just as one can’t deny an awareness, even if slow and overdue, is still underway. Are the youth of today really as righteous as they think? Their way of life has changed, that’s clear, favouring soft mobility, sensible consumption and activities that have a beneficial effect on nature.

It’s here that we find the crux of the debate. The sources of pollution were until now, obvious: cars, planes, central heating etc. all of which are easily identifiable, as well as “culpable” as those which had caused this way of life.

The youth that, some of the time, don’t hesitate to give lessons in morality to the ‘aged’, should perhaps take into consideration other sources of pollution, often exiled or invisible since they are out of sight.

Here are some simple examples I want to mention:

  • Sending 30 emails, with attachments costs as much, in energy as well as pollution as driving a car 100km;
  • Sending at least one less e-mail thanking the sender, over the French population, would equate to removing 4000 Diesel cars from the market per year;
  • 10% of electrical energy in Europe is consumed by datacentres;
  • Watching a streamed film consumes as much as 100amps per hour;
  • Opening (and only this, without scrolling) WhatsApp equates to driving a diesel car 13 metres.

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I could lengthen this list indefinitely and risks omitting other pertinent factors. For example, that 90% of energy consumed by a smartphone (1.5 billion unit sold per year) is generated outside of their fabrication (the components stretching on average 4 times around the planet) without mentioning the cost of recycling and its impact on health.

The worst of all, however, as it often is, is left for last. Every 2 days, the world’s population produces as much information as it has generated since the dawn of its existence back in 2003. Of course, one can hope that among this mass of data, are the works of the new Plato, Einstein and Proust, it is nevertheless more likely that the majority is composed of spam, smileys, cat videos, mindless articles, moronic and (unfortunately) mundane comments.

So, this is what I think and what I believe: history often repeats itself in an ironic way, the chances are that the current sanctimonious youth will be caught up by their children’s generation with the same grievances and criticisms…compounded by the fact that they can’t deny, this time, they know all too well the impact of their actions.

Economic recovery from COVID19 is neither green nor sustainable

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which I consider to be the global gold standard for energy data, warns that in 2021 global carbon dioxide emissions are set for their second biggest increase in history.

This huge spike is second to the massive and carbon-intensive rebound after 2008 financial crisis.

Global Energy Report 2021 of IEA predicts a 1.5 billion tonnes rise in global energy related CO2 emissions, driven by a strong rebound in demand for fossil fuels and especially coal in electricity generation.

I would like to summarise the key findings of the report:

  • Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6% in 2021, and nearly 70% of this projected increase is in emerging markets and developing economies.
  • Demand for all fossil fuels is set to grow significantly in 2021. Coal demand alone is projected to increase by 60% more than all renewables combined.
  • Despite an expected annual increase of 6.2% in 2021, global oil demand is set to remain around 3% below 2019 levels.
  • Coal demand is on course to rise 4.5% in 2021, with more than 80% of the growth concentrated in Asia.
  • Natural gas demand is set to grow by 3.2% in 2021, driven by increasing demand in Asia, the Middle East and Russia.
  • Electricity demand is due to increase by 4.5% in 2021, or over 1 000 TWh. This is almost five times greater than the decline in 2020, bolstering electricity’s share in final energy demand above 20%.
  • Demand for renewables grew by 3% in 2020 and is set to increase across all key sectors – power, heating, industry and transport – in 2021. Solar PV and wind are expected to contribute two-thirds of renewables’ growth. The share of renewables in electricity generation is projected to increase to almost 30% in 2021.
At the launch of the report Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director and a leading authority on energy and climate said “This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate… Emissions need to be cut by 45% this decade, if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C (2.7F), scientists have warned. That means the 2020s must be the decade when the world changes course, before the level of carbon in the atmosphere rises too high to avoid dangerous levels of heating. But the scale of the current emissions rebound from the Covid-19 crisis means our starting point is definitely not a good one”
In my opinion, the findings of the report are alarming and unsettling. On the one hand, governments around the world declare the climate change their priority, on the other hand they aim a recovery by more investment through fossil fuels. I believe the financial institutions should definitely take this point into account while drawing their medium term strategies.
I would like to conclude with Fatih Birol’s warning “Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022. The Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden this week is a critical moment to commit to clear and immediate action ahead of COP26 in Glasgow”.

IEA – WEO 2020 – Gov. role and scenarios

International Energy Agency (IEA) published its World Energy Outlook (WEO)2020 report on 13 October. The new report provides the latest IEA analysis of the pandemic’s impact: global energy demand is set to drop by 5% in 2020, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7%, and energy investment by 18%.

The report suggests that, although the pandemic and its aftermath can suppress emissions, low economic growth is not a low-emissions strategy. The report concludes that during this time of extraordinary uncertainty, only the governments have unique capacities to act and to guide the actions of others. I feel that the voices against more government intervention in every area increase everywhere.

The established methodology of the report is to put forward different scenarios, within which the probable developments in the energy sector are discussed. I think, these discussions are very useful especially during these turbulent times.

I would like to briefly summarize these scenarios from the outlook below:

  • The Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS), in which Covid-19 is gradually brought under control in 2021 and the global economy returns to pre-crisis levels the same year.  As I see it, this one is the least realistic scenario.
  • The Delayed Recovery Scenario (DRS) is designed with the same policy assumptions as in the STEPS, but a prolonged pandemic causes lasting damage to economic prospects. The global economy returns to its pre-crisis size only in 2023, and the pandemic ushers in a decade with the lowest rate of energy demand growth since the 1930s.
  • In the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), a surge in clean energy policies and investment puts the energy system on track to achieve sustainable energy objectives in full, including the Paris Agreement, energy access and air quality goals. The assumptions on public health and the economy are the same as in the STEPS. I think, this is a very optimistic scenario.
  • The new Net Zero Emissions by 2050 case (NZE2050) extends the SDS analysis. A rising number of countries and companies are targeting net-zero emissions, typically by mid-century. All of these are achieved in the SDS, putting global emissions on track for net zero by 2070.