The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) notes with interest the latest ‘Global Energy Perspectives’ report by the influential market intelligence group McKinsey. Their latest report outlines that the future decades will be dominated by rapid growth of the renewables sector over fossil fuel or nuclear power, but that the planet can only hit the IPCC target of keeping an increase in global temperatures of no more than 2 degrees Celsius through far reaching policies of government at all levels. (1)
The McKinsey report is one of the most influential overviews of global energy policy and it highlights that the world is going through one of the greatest periods of energy transition since the Industrial Revolution. A core finding of its 2019 report is that the ever-reducing costs of renewable energy means that many countries will reach a ‘tipping point’ in the coming five years in which new-build renewables will be cost- competitive with conventional power stations, leading to a rapid ramp-up of such technologies.
This change will be complemented by the increased ramping-up of battery storage schemes, which can reduce intermittency issues, and this will also make electric vehicles more cost-competitive in comparison to petrol and diesel vehicles.
The report’s five key insights include:
- Global primary energy demand plateaus after 2035, despite strong population and economic growth.
- Electricity consumption doubles until 2050, while renewables are projected to make up 50% of generation by 2035.
- Gas continues to grow its share of energy demand until plateauing after 2035.
- Oil demand slows down substantially, with a projected peak in the early 2030s.
- Carbon emissions are projected to decline, but a 2-degree pathway remains far away.
NFLA notes that the report says little about nuclear power, apart from a minor role in ‘complementing’ renewables. The renewables sector will provide a third of all energy generation by 2050, and provide the majority of electricity generation by the same date. The biggest concern though has to be that McKinsey’s current projections do not see the world reducing carbon emissions by levels large enough to mitigate the worst effects of climate change; therefore suggesting much more radical and comprehensive policies are required from government at all levels – a real ‘climate emergency’ as many Council resolutions have been warning of across the country and the wider world. (2)
NFLA sees this report as a wake-up call to future UK and Irish energy policy. Both governments have got to move much faster in prioritising and supporting the take-up of renewables. In the UK this means restoring support for both solar and on-shore wind, badly damaged by central government policy. In Ireland, this means weaning government policy from the ongoing obsession with fossil fuels and much more rapidly deploying towards a wider level of renewables beyond wind power – such as solar and tidal energy and a more comprehensive energy efficiency programme led by local government.
In both the UK and Ireland, this also means a stronger partnership needs to be developed between central and local government, whose critical role in providing local leadership for rapid carbon reduction should be more closely linked to improving energy and low carbon policies at the national level.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Cllr David Blackburn said:
“As the Financial Times has commented, this report is not authored by the typical ‘green’ groups but by the international global energy consultant governments often go to – McKinsey. It outlines something NFLA has been saying for some time – that our energy future lays first and foremost with developing renewable energy coupled with energy efficiency and energy storage. But the report goes even further and says that, even with such positive developments, the planet remains very much at risk of not reaching the critical target of a 2 degrees or less reduction in temperature over the next two decades.
“Many Councils have passed ‘climate emergency’ and ‘zero carbon’ resolutions as local government understands this acute issue more than most. In comparison, the UK Parliament has only just discussed climate change for the first time in two years, and then only 40 MPs turned up as Brexit takes over its entire agenda. The planned UK Government White Paper on energy due in the summer should prioritise the support of renewables, not extortionate ways of providing financial support for new nuclear, as has been heavily mooted. Rapid change is needed and I worry that not enough of our national politicians truly understand the scale of this challenge.”
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co Chair Cllr Mark Dearey added:
“The McKinsey report is yet another signal to the Irish Government of the huge urgency that is required from government at all levels to prioritise the mitigation of climate change as the highest priority. Yet the levels of lethargy in developing policies that can escalate both national and local responses to this endeavour remains depressingly high. I call on the Government and on our councillors to act on the McKinsey report and other clarion calls for rapid change in favour of low carbon energy policy and strategies. For too long Ireland has been following rather than leading, and the time, in a likely election year, for radical change has clearly arrived.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) McKinsey Energy Insights – Global Energy Perspective 2019
(2) Climate emergency declarations in 369 councils over 31 million citizens, 16th February 2019