Watchdog Group Bashes International Energy Agency on Renewables

It’s hard to ignore the massive growth of the wind industry over the past decade, but a German watchdog group says that’s just what the International Energy Agency has been doing. The IEA is an intergovernmental organization that acts as an energy policy adviser to most major governments around the world.

In a report released today, the Energy Watch Group, backed by the nonprofit Ludwig Bölkow Foundation, accuses the IEA of showing “ignorance and contempt” toward wind power — and renewables in general — and said the IEA has consistently under-estimated the growth of renewable energy.

The IEA releases a yearly World Energy Outlook report covering energy demand and supply projections. Back in 1998, IEA’s outlook predicted cumulative installations of 47.4 gigawatts of wind power by 2020, but the Energy Watch Group said that prediction was exceeded in December 2004. In its 2002 outlook, the IEA upped its prediction to 104 GW of wind power by 2020, but that number was surpassed just this past summer, according to the watchdog group.

“The worst forecasts on wind regularly came and still do come from the International Energy Agency,” said the Energy Watch Group in its report. “Renewables tend to look ever expensive and close to irrelevant while oil, coal and nuclear look irreplaceable in the IEA World Energy Outlook reference scenarios.”

But why are IEA’s reports so far off the mark? Rudolf Rechsteiner, the author of the Energy Watch Group report, and a member of the Swiss Parliament who sits on its energy and environment committee, told the Guardian that the IEA has close ties to the traditional energy market, and that it routinely fills its senior staff with recruits from the fossil-fuel industry.

“The oil business is very skillful in keeping its energy access exclusive,” he told the Guardian.

The Energy Watch Group makes its own bold predictions in today’s report, with one scenario forecasting that wind capacity could reach 7,500 GW by 2025, with wind and solar accounting for half of all new power projects. Under that scenario, which predicts high power consumption and high wind power growth, the group said non-renewable power generation will peak in 2018 and could be phased out completely by 2037.