GENEVA (Reuters) - There is “no silver bullet” to solve the world’s energy challenges, but a host of technologies must be harnessed to cut heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the International Energy Agency chief said on Friday.
IEA Executive Director Claude Mandil noted that energy consumption was forecast to rise by nearly 50 percent by 2030, with fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas still accounting for the “lion’s share.” But this was “not sustainable,” he said.
The world is producing some 25 billion metric tons of CO2 each year, which rises by about 1 billion metric tons every two years, according to Mandil. He said that the aim should be to eliminate one billion metric tons of CO2 emissions a year.
“We can reach a long-term sustainable energy future with known technologies and at a cost that is not out of reach,” he told a United Nations forum on sustainable energy policies.
Burning fossil fuels for energy produces CO2, a greenhouse gas widely linked to a rise in world temperatures. Mandil said that cleaner sources of energy must be promoted alongside efforts to curb emissions.
“In the long term we recognize that energy efficiencies will not alone solve the problem,” he said. “There is no silver bullet. Nothing can be achieved with one technology alone.”
Replacing coal power plants with “zero-emission” plants, using solar electricity, wind, nuclear power, more efficient lighting, as well as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) can all help to reduce CO2 emissions growth, according to Mandil.
“But we’re afraid that in 2030, carbon capture and sequestration technologies would not be available at an affordable cost on a large scale at that time,” he said.
CCS technology could contribute significantly to CO2 emission reduction by 2050, according to Mandil, whose Paris-based agency advises 26 industrialized nations on their energy policy.
Thierry Desmarest, chairman of French oil giant Total which has a pilot CCS unit in Lacq in southwest France, said it costs $100 a metric ton to capture and store CO2.
An important objective would be to divide this cost by one-half or one-third, Desmarest told the forum in Geneva.
IAEA chief Mandil said that biofuels had the potential to play a major role, but here again the challenge would be to reduce cost. “It will not be possible in the long term to sustain in the future with sustained subsidies,” he said.
Brazil and the United States, the two largest producers of ethanol, accounting for about 70 percent of world output, last month signed a broad agreement to work together to advance biofuels technology and set common standards for ethanol trade.
Gregory Manuel, special advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the United States was working with India, China, South Africa and the European Commission “to bring a standard to biofuels use such that the exponential potential for biofuels can be carried through with maximum efficiency.”
The United States was looking at bringing the benefits of biofuels to certain countries, starting in the Western Hemisphere, but also in Africa and south-east Asia, he said.
“The sustainability issues are critical and are integrated into that approach,” Manuel said.
The United States was also working with Brazil on research and development, “bringing second generation biofuels to the marketplace, hopefully faster than predicted,” he said.