Electricity in a Climate-Constrained World

12 February 2013

Each of the last several years has seen a fresh record high in global carbon dioxide emissions, and scientists say if this trend continues the planet will suffer a catastrophic increase in temperature. With electricity generation responsible for about half of recent growth in emissions, a new IEA book looks at ways the power sector can keep up with an improvement in global living standards while minimising the risk of drastic climate change.

In Electricity in a Climate-Constrained World, IEA experts consider potential solutions ranging from the design of a Chinese emissions trading programme to stand-by consumption of networked appliances to carbon capture and storage.

The book lays out the reasons electricity generation must get cleaner, and do so quickly. Higher temperatures will affect all aspects of human life, including the very electricity sector that emits so much of the cause of climate change.

In general, the solutions are well-known: increased energy efficiency, greater research and development of low-carbon energy production, and putting a realistic price on carbon. The problem lies in squaring these imperatives with the demand for energy that comes from a richer and more populous world.

Each of the chapters in Electricity in a Climate-Constrained World provides specific and detailed information on the book’s mission to help the electricity sector reduce its impact on global temperatures. Some of them apply to particular countries, such as the examination of Brazil’s potential for generating electricity from the by-products of sugarcane, while others monitor the entire sector, like a consideration of how different policy approaches to reducing emissions can work together.

Detailed charts and summaries at the end of the book assess the relationship of electricity and carbon emissions by global region, listing the latest data on electricity output and emissions; CO2 intensity; end-uses; the share of low-carbon technologies; and additions in power generation capacity.

Electricity in a Climate-Constrained World Climate is available for free download, as is Electricity Annual 2011, the previous edition in the series; the latter contains eight more analyses by IEA experts on critical topics for electricity-sector decarbonisation.

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