Oil and electricity consumption across the world could easily be cut by half, with major benefits for the environment, if clean energy technologies that are currently available were applied, an international watchdog said.
"A sustainable energy future is possible, but only if we act urgently and decisively to promote, develop and deploy a full mix of energy technologies... We have the means, now we need the will," said Claude Mandil, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
He was presenting an IEA report written in response to a call last year from G8 leaders who asked the agency to develop and advise on alternative scenarios and strategies for a clean, clever and competitive energy future.
The IEA report was published ahead of next month's Saint Petersburg summit of the G8 group of the world's leading industrial nations, which is expected to focus largely on energy questions.
The mix of technologies the IEA advocated included improved energy efficiency, carbon dioxide capture and storage, renewables and -- where acceptable -- nuclear energy, said Mandil.
The report said record high oil prices raised concerns about the long-term balance of supply and demand. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have increased by more than 20 percent over the last decade, it noted.
If the future is in line with present trends, CO2 emissions and oil demand will continue to grow rapidly over the next 25 years. Extending this outlook beyond 2030 shows that these worrisome trends are likely to get worse, said the IEA report.
Energy efficiency is essential to mitigate growth in energy demand and CO2 emissions, added the document from the Paris-based IEA, which was created during the 1973-74 oil crisis to advise industrialised countries on energy questions.
"Improved energy efficiency is an indispensable component of any policy mix, and it is available immediately," said Mandil, presenting the report titled "Energy Technology Perspectives: Scenarios and Strategies."
Accelerating energy efficiency improvements alone can reduce the worlds energy demand in 2050 by an amount equivalent to almost half of today's global energy consumption, said the report.
To achieve this, however, "governments, in both OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and non-OECD countries, must be willing to implement measures that encourage the investment in energy-efficient technologies," Mandil added.
Another key technology is the capture and storage of CO2 emitted from power-generation or industrial processes. The IEA study pointed out that the early demonstration of carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) in full-scale power plants should be a high priority.
"If we do not succeed in making CCS viable, the cost of mitigating CO2 emissions will be much higher," Mandil warned.
Deploying CCS, along with more renewables, more nuclear and more efficient use of natural gas and coal, can significantly decarbonise global electricity generation by 2050, according to the report.
"With the right policy incentives we think there is scope for renewables to quadruple by 2050 and for nuclear to gain a more important role in countries where it is acceptable," said Mandil.
Rising oil prices and supply concerns, as well as the growing need to combat global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, have raised the profile and economic viability of some renewable energy sources.
Those concerns have also sparked renewed interest in nuclear power as a source of climate-friendly energy.
At last July's G8 summit in the Scottish resort of Gleneagles, the group issued a statement that said: "We will act with resolve and urgency to meet our shared multiple objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the global environment, enhancing energy security and cutting air pollution."
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