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Opinion
Liam Denning

A New Energy Paradigm Must Confront the Old

 

BloombergNEF's new report on the future of electricity shows how coal and gas block the path to progress.

A coal-fired plant, one stubbornly persistent form of electricity generation.

A coal-fired plant, one stubbornly persistent form of electricity generation.

Photographer: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images Europe

Nothing blocks a pathway quite like a giant power plant. Or a coal mine. Or a gas field.

Two tomes released in the past week, one looking back and the other ahead, show the enduring importance of facts on the ground (or under it) when it comes to the transition toward lower-carbon energy. BP Plc’s latest Statistical Review of World Energy set the tone with its headline, “An unsustainable path”. The report showed carbon emissions rose at their fastest pace last year since 2011, hitting a new record. Worse, this came on the back of unexpectedly strong growth in primary energy demand, much of which BP attributed to weather effects – people turning on air conditioners in unusual heat or heating in bitter cold, hinting at pernicious feedback loops generated by climate change.