33. Global Energy Assessment for a Sustainable Future
The Global Energy Assessment (GEA) demonstrates that a major energy system transformation is the key to addressing and resolving the worldwide sustainability challenges. Energy systems are a crucial entry point for addressing the most pressing global challenges in the 21st Century. These include sustainable economic and social development, poverty eradication, climate protection, conservation of ecosystems, peace, security and health for all. Major changes are needed to establish a comprehensively sustainable planet for societies worldwide. The GEA identifies strategies that would help simultaneously resolve these multiple challenges and bring multiple global benefits. Their successful implementation requires determined, sustained, and immediate actions. This assessment provides policy-and business decision-makers worldwide with invaluable new knowledge to inform action and commitment to implementing these strategies, and thereby resolving the 21st Century’s greatest challenges.
The main purpose of the GEA has been to establish a state-of-the-art assessment of the science of energy. This work examines the major challenges that all nations and their citizens face in the 21st Century. Central to this integrated analysis of the global energy system has been a novel scenario exercise exploring some 40 pathways that simultaneously satisfy the following key 21st Century social and environmental goals: (1) Stabilizing global climate to only 2⁰ C above pre-industrial levels; (2) Enhancing energy security by energy supply diversification and resilience; (3) Eliminating household and ambient air pollution; and (4) Universal global access to modern energy services by 2030.
These GEA pathways generate substantial benefits across multiple economic and social objectives. The following are the 10 GEA Key Findings.
1. Energy systems can be Transformed to Support a Sustainable Future. The GEA analysis demonstrates that a sustainable future requires a transformation of today’s energy systems with radical improvement in energy efficiency, greater shares of clean renewable energies, and advanced energy systems with carbon capture and storage. The technologies to enable this transformation are broadly available, but larger sustained investments and supporting policies are needed to implement this major global energy transformation.
2. An Effective Transformation Requires Immediate Action. By 2050, nearly three-quarters of the world population is projected to live in cities. The provision of services and livelihood opportunities to the growing urban populations presents a major opportunity for transforming energy systems, and avoiding continued energy supply and demand patterns that are counterproductive to sustainability.
3. Energy Efficiency is an Immediate and Effective Option. Efficiency improvement is proving to be the most cost-effective, near-term transformation option with multiple benefits including reduced adverse environmental and health impacts, alleviating poverty, enhancing energy security and flexibility, and creating employment and economic opportunities.
4. Renewable Energies are Abundant, Widely Available and Increasingly Cost-effective. The share of renewable energy in global primary energy could increase from the current 17% to between 30% and 75%, and in some regions more than 90% by 2050. If developed in conjunction with a truly intelligent digital electricity system, renewable energies can provide many benefits including job creation, increased energy security, improved health, environmental protection, and mitigation of climate change.
5. Major Changes in Fossil Energy are Essential and Feasible. Transformation toward clean energy systems requires fundamental changes in fossil-fuel use which dominates the current global energy landscape and is likely to remain important even with the accelerated growth in renewable energy. This is feasible with known technologies.
6. Universal Access to Modern Energy Carriers and Cleaner Cooking by 2030. Universal access can be achieved by 2030. Universal access is necessary to alleviate poverty, enhance prosperity and improve health and well-being.
7. An Integrated Energy System Strategy is Essential. An integrated strategy will coordinate energy policies with other sectors including industry, buildings, urbanization, transport, food, health, environment, climate and security to make them mutually supportive. The results will foster a rapid diffusion of advanced technologies to simultaneously meet the societal challenges related to energy.
8. Energy Options for a Sustainable Future bring Substantial Multiple Benefits for Society. Combinations of energy resources, technologies and policies that can meet global sustainability goals also generate substantial local and national economic, environmental and social development benefits. These include new business opportunities, improved social welfare and energy security, decreased poverty and more resilient infrastructure.
9. Socio-Cultural Changes as well as Stable Rules and Regulations will be Required. Crucial issues in achieving transformative change for a sustainable future include non-technical drivers such as individual and public awareness, community and societal capacities to adapt to change, institutions, policies, incentives, social norms, marketplace rules and regulations, and measures to reflect externalities.
10. Policies, Regulations and Stable Investment Regimes will be Essential. A portfolio of policies to enable rapid energy system transformation must provide the effective incentives and strong signals for the deployment of energy sufficient technologies and energy supply options. The GEA pathways indicate that global investments in combined energy efficiency supply and end-use components will need to increase to about 2 trillion dollars compared to the present level of about 1.3 trillion dollars.
Why it should be recognized:
The GEA report establishes the global benchmark for relevant understanding of the options for building the sustainable energy future system. The GEA is more than just a report. It has also developed Analytical tools for helping translate the Assessment into actionable findings. These tools for decision-making include global and regional scenarios that can be used to develop policy choices to address country-specific problems.
The United Nations has been a key sponsor of the GEA published in 2012, and the U.N. General Assembly declared 2012 the year of “Sustainable Energy” for all. Other key sponsors include the World Bank, and the World Energy Council. Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial innovation leadership and commitment to renewable energy can be enhanced both locally and worldwide by promoting the GEA Analytical tools.
This opportunity to lay out a new approach to the design and implementation of sustainable energy pathways would not be possible without the extraordinary efforts of the GEA’s global team of Lead authors. The Silicon Valley Lead Authors were: Sally Benson from Stanford University; and Kurt Yeager, the retired President of the Electric Power Research Institute.
The complete GEA is now available for purchase from Cambridge University Press, and is online at www.globalenergyassessment.org. The website includes an interactive scenario database that documents the GEA pathways.