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IEA Executive Director: "A clean energy transition is still possible."

2 min. read

The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Maria van der Hoeven, has some encouraging thoughts on the transition to a clean energy economy that are worth highlighting.

For starters, Ms. van der Hoeven believes that we should not get "discouraged," and that "[a]ttaining the international goal of limiting the long-term increase of global temperature to 2° Celsius is still possible despite the world not being on track." In order to accomplish this goal, however, we'll need to take aggressive "action in all sectors."  Ms. van der Hoeven lays out four "key recommendation to move towards a mores sustainable energy future."

  • "First, she stressed that energy prices need to reflect the true cost of energy. 'That means pricing carbon and abolishing fossil fuel subsidies – subsidies which in 2011 were almost seven times higher than support for renewables.'"
  • Second, she emphasized "that governments can unlock the potential of energy efficiency by adopting the IEA’s 25 energy efficiency policy recommendations."
  • Third, "she noted that energy innovation and public support for research, development and demonstration must be accelerated to encourage private sector investment and more widespread commercial use."
  • Finally, with regard to natural gas, while Ms. van der Hoeven believes it "can provide a crucial bridge to low-carbon technologies going forward," she adds that the "unconventional gas revolution" - namely, fracking - must follow the ‘Golden Rules’: "full transparency, measuring and monitoring of environmental impacts and engagement with local communities; careful choice of drilling sites and measures to prevent any leaks from wells into nearby aquifers; rigorous assessment and monitoring of water requirements and of waste water; measures to target zero venting and minimal flaring of gas; and improved project planning and regulatory control."

On that final point, we wrote recently about a new report, by Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project, regarding the lack of those "Golden Rules" in New York State. Among other problems, the report found grossly inadequate inspections of active oil and gas wells in New York; citizen input not used efficiently to improve oversight; little public transparency or data on oil and gas drilling operations; fines for violations that are inadequate and far from a deterrent to irresponsible behavior by oil and gas "frackers" in the state; etc. Clearly, all of that needs a great deal of improvement.

Overall, it's good to hear the Executive Director of the IEA speaking out forcefully about the urgent need for a clean energy transition, including the necessity of properly pricing fossil fuels -- something that is certainly not being done at present. Now, it's up to policymakers to take Ms. van der Hoeven's excellent advice and act accordingly.