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The International Energy Agency speaks out on sustainable energy
by Anna T
The World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa •• Aug. 30, 2002 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• There can be no sustainable development without an affordable and secure supply of energy used in an environmentally sympathetic way, and with threats to that security stemming from a geopolitical disruption or inadequate investment structures, a secure supply could not be taken for granted, said the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). He continued to say that the IEA could bring precision and constructive ideas to the energy debate. For example, one contentious issue in the negotiations was the idea of a commitment to obtain 15% of the energy supply from renewable energy by 2015, at present the proportion of the world’s energy supplied by new renewable energy sources stands at only 2%. To achieve this increase from 2 to 15% seems “clearly impossible”. But if one includes renewable energy in the form of biomass, then 13% of current energy already comes from biomass making the target of 15% seem much more attainable. Biomass however, used on that scale, is a problem for a sustainable future as it involves serious environmental damage if wood is not harvested in a sustainable way. Also it’s burning in inefficient stoves causes pollution and may result in damaging health.

The IEA has defined eight key areas of action to achieve sustainable energy and enable energy to play a proper role in sustainable development. These are: energy security; greater efficiency; greater use of renewable energy; improving the way energy markets work; enhancing the role of technology and research to provide clean and cost effective energy; addressing health, environment and safety concerns; increasing access; and developing sustainable transportation systems.

The Agency has recently conducted a detailed country-by-country analysis of reliance on biomass and access to electricity. Its findings showed that currently 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity and that based on today’s situation, in 30 years there would still be 1.4 billion people without electricity owing to the expected substantial growth in global population. As for reliance on biomass, 2.4 billion rely on it for cooking and heating, with an expected increase to 2.6 billion by 2030.

These staggering figures cry out for a need to take action. Countries need to set realistic and achievable targets within a determined timeframe to move towards sustainable energy and a reduction in the amount of non-renewable energy forms still relied upon.

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