Emissions set to exceed tipping point

The shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy has been too slow to keep global temperature increases within the threshold needed to avert serious disaster.

This is one of the main findings of the 12th PricewaterhouseCoopers Annual Power and Utilities Survey, which is based on the views of the top management of 72 power and utility companies around the world.

The global aim is to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, which are largely the result of burning fossil fuels, quickly enough so that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere peaks at 450 parts per million. This would limit the average global temperature increase to 2°C, a level at which changes could be managed.

But with electricity demand projected to increase from 17200 terawatt-hours in 2009 to 31 700TWh in 2035, this is unlikely. Fossil fuels currently generate 66% of this electricity and those surveyed said they were aiming to reduce it to 57% by 2030. Renewables and gas would make up the rest.

Serious consequences
Given these responses, the survey concludes that the forecast fuel-mix scenario will result in “a level of emissions consistent with long-term average temperature increases of more than 3.5°C”.

According to the International Energy Agency, this will have serious consequences: droughts, floods, sea levels rising by more than 2m, changes in rainfall patterns and heat waves. These would severely affect food production and increase the prevalence of human diseases and mortality rates.

Of those interviewed, 44% said that raising finance for power generation was difficult, which three-quarters of them said was the greatest barrier to renewables getting a bigger share of the market. But 80% thought that onshore wind energy, biomass and solar energy would be so competitively priced by 2030 that they would not need subsidies.

Africa and Asia are leading the race in terms of investment and face far fewer blackouts, but the fear in the mature markets of North America and Europe is that recessions and lower levels of investment will lead to a reversal of their fortunes.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.


To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sipho Kings
Sipho is the Mail & Guardian's News Editor. He also does investigative environment journalism.
Advertising

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it
Advertising

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations