Nature Climate Change just published a report which contains striking statistics about energy generating technologies. Research conducted by scientists at Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia showed that building new power stations is much more popular than improving energy efficiency and end-use.
The study was done by an international team from Austria and the USA, led by Dr Charlie Wilson, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA and an affiliated researcher with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).
They found that great efforts are directed towards energy supply technologies, however much more should be done in order to improve energy efficiency and end-use. According to Wilson, this will help the mitigation of climate change.
To come to this conclusion, the team assessed different energy technology innovations. They considered the potential of these technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions, their possible technological improvements as well as the environmental and social benefits. It was established that energy efficiency and end-use offer high potential for cost reduction, emission reduction as well as high social returns.
Nevertheless, a high proportion of investments is still not allocated appropriately. Since 1974, according to the International Energy Agency, $38 billion has been spent on energy end-use and efficiency innovations. In comparison, $41 billion has been spent on nuclear fusion alone. Furthermore, fossil fuels received a total of $500 billion in subsidies, while all other energy generating technologies received a grand total of $160 billion.
According to Wilson, innovation efforts try to produce technologies that can mitigate climate change, however the market is still taken over by the others. Small-scale innovations, no matter how efficient and environmentally-friendly they are, do not receive the needed attention. Although they might not be as fancy as solar panels or wind turbines, and do not receive as much support from the public as any of the other supply technologies, they still hold great potential for social return of investments.