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Energy systems are still far from being sustainable – World Energy Council

The World Energy Council has released its latest Energy Sustainability Index, revealing that most of the 94 countries assessed remain far from achieving environmentally sustainable energy systems.

In time for the ongoing Doha climate talks, the index is published within the W.E.C.’s World Energy Trilemma report, “Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy policy,” which ranked the countries in terms of their climate and energy policies.

It showed that most countries still have not able to balance what W.E.C. called the “energy trilemma” – energy security, social equity and environmental impact mitigation.

Nations must be able to balance the inconsistencies among these three challenges in order to deliver sustainable energy systems, stressed W.E.C.

The index highlighted that the environmental impact of energy production remains a “universal problem.” By 2050, it is estimated that population growth will swell from 7 billion to 9.3 billion, driving energy demand.

W.E.C. said that this increased demand will put even more pressures on energy resources, energy infrastructure, as well as the environment.

“Sustainable energy is not only an opportunity to transform societies and grow economies, but also a necessity - a prerequisite to meet growing energy demand and reduce the carbon footprint. The energy industry plays a vital role in securing the transformation to a sustainable energy system,” it argued.

W.E.C. suggested the use of renewable energy sources and clean technology would help cut environmental footprint.

The index found that countries at different stages of development struggle with energy security.

Developing and emerging countries, such as China and India, primarily struggle with energy security due to their robust consumption growth. Thus, providing high-quality and affordable energy access has become a significant challenge for these nations.

“Scarce financial resources on the demand and supply side sides limit the functioning of markets and the ability to attract energy investments,” noted the index.

Some developed countries, on the other hand, struggle to expand their domestic production of energy to meet growing consumption. However, according to W.E.C., countries with higher G.D.P. per capita have tendencies to have a more secure energy supply with the top 10 performers in the index all ranking high in energy security, enabled political support, strong institutional frameworks and the necessary finances.

“The message of the Energy Sustainability Index is clear: all countries are facing challenges in their transition towards more secure, environmentally friendly, and equitable energy systems. What makes the difference is how they set their final goals, how they balance market economics and public policies, and how they design the smartest policies in order to promote efficiency and to optimize costs, resources and investments for the long term,” said W.E.C. chairman, Pierre Gadonneix.

“If we are to have any chance of delivering sustainable energy for all and meeting the +2 degrees Celsius goal, we need to get real,” he warned.

The 2012 Energy Sustainability Index showed that 10 performing countries for sustainable energy systems are Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Japan, France and Austria, respectively.

Their leadership in energy security is mainly because of the higher share of low-carbon energy sources, such as hydro power and from nuclear power, in their energy mixes, according to Joan MacNaughton, executive chair of the World Energy Trilemma report. In addition, they have adopted long-term and effective policies to mitigate the environmental impacts of their energy systems.

To address sustainable energy systems globally, the index urged policymakers to develop “interconnected, lasting, and coherent energy policies.”

Policymakers and executives from the energy sector must come up with a common understanding of what energy sustainability is, its importance for economic growth and the actions needed to achieve it, it said.

“Global prosperity could also be threatened. There is no time to waste,” concluded the index. – C. Dominguez

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