The energy technology revolution required to tackle climate change and enhance global energy security is finally under way, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The Paris-based agency has launched its Energy Technology Perspectives 2010 publication and says that it can see the “green shoots” of change after calling for an energy revolution “for several years”.

“For the first time, we see early indications that such a revolution is under way,” said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka in Washington DC. “After sowing the seeds for such a revolution in our last edition in 2008 by demonstrating that greater reliance on low-carbon technologies can transform the way we produce and use energy, ETP 2010 now highlights the first ‘green shoots’ of what could become such a fundamental change.”

Evidence of the energy revolution include a one-third increase in low-carbon energy R&D between 2005 and 2008, continued investment in renewable energy generation in spite of the economic crisis, improved rates of energy efficiency in OECD countries and expanded production of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Increased energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage (CCS), renewable energy and nuclear power will all be top priorities for the future, says the IEA. It also notes that OECD countries should take the lead, but that all major economies should be involved.

“What we need is rapid, large-scale deployment of a portfolio of low-carbon technologies; we need a massive decarbonisation of the energy system, breaking the historical link between CO2 emissions and economic output, and leading to a new age of electrification,” said Tanaka. Noting that 1.5 billion people still lack access to electricity, he stated: “This adds tremendous urgency to electrification efforts worldwide.”

The IEA’s analysis shows that to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions by 2050 (over 2005 levels) will cost $46 trillion more between now and 2050 compared with a baseline scenario, in which no new policies are implemented.