Shale gas growth could derail offshore wind says IEA

WORLDWIDE: Expansion of the shale gas sector together with a sudden retreat from nuclear power could hit offshore wind, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Launching its World Energy Outlook Golden Age of Gas? report in London today (Monday),  the IEA said that the North American shale gas boom and dramatic international expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has led to lower prices.

Higher gas targets in China’s 12th Five Year Plan, reduced growth of nuclear energy after the Japanese nuclear crisis and increased deployment of natural gas vehicles were key drivers of gas growth.

Gas could take electricity generation market share from coal and nuclear. However, offshore wind could also be hit.

IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said: "We assume that for the time being governments will not change their commitment to renewables, despite plentiful and cheap gas."

But,  he warned, "because they are relatively expensive, offshore wind and solar projects could be ‘put on the shelf’ as a consequence of the golden age of gas." He said that onshore wind was likely to be unaffected.

In the IEA’s new scenario global wind power would show the second biggest growth as a source of global electricity generation, increasing by 2,500TWh between 2010 and 2035; gas would be highest climber at just over 4,000TWh. Other renewables would grow by 2,300TWh.

Birol also acknowledged that an era of cheap and plentiful gas could mean a 30 year "lock-in" for fossil fuels after new gas generation was built. While gas when burned emits less CO2 than other fossil fuels it still compares less favourably in this respect with nuclear and wind power.

He said: "The golden age of gas might not necessarily mean a golden age of emissions reduction."

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