Of the 26 sectors and technologies key to the global transition to clean energy, only three are “on track” and even one of those is wallowing, according to a new infographic from the International Energy Agency. Initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in another 23 fields of activity, from aluminum refining to transportation biofuel, range from “improvement, but more efforts needed” (the largest group) to “not on track.”
The IEA graphic tracks progress in more than two dozen critical sectors toward interim 2025 performance targets consistent with keeping global temperature increases below the target of 2.0ºC established by the world’s governments at COP 21 in Paris. It links to two layers of deeper background on each sector’s performance.
Only three are “on track”: electric vehicle technology, energy storage, and terrestrial power generation from solar photovoltaics and wind.
Slightly more than half of the middle-graded performers (the “more work needed” group) show positive developments, the IEA finds. These include several heavy energy-using industrial sectors, including cement, steel, and petrochemical processes, in addition to aluminum refining.
But developments in five other sectors, including aviation and truck transportation, have been equivocal. Two middle-group sectors witnessed negative developments in 2016: stalled progress on improving light-duty truck and SUV fuel efficiency; and a roughly 30% decline in global investment in offshore wind.
Eight more key sectors are “not on track” to meet goals consistent with the Paris 2015 climate target. Even so, the survey marks positive developments in building energy performance, transportation biofuels, and carbon capture and storage.
While reading the IEA’s report card, it’s worth recalling the agency’s history of underestimating clean energy advances.
“The International Energy Agency has repeatedly predicted growth rates for solar deployment that are anywhere from 16 to 30% lower than actual rates end up being,” the Washington Post notes, in an unrelated report on the persistent lowballing of forecasts of renewable energy’s adoption by global energy markets.