Low-carbon electricity generation could help meet demand while reducing climate change effects. But new technologies could create new environmental problems. This report aids informed decision-making about energy technologies, infrastructure and optimal mix.

    The report

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      Rising energy demand and efforts to combat climate change require a significant increase in low-carbon electricity generation. Yet concern has been raised that rapid investment in some novel technologies could cause a new set of environmental problems. The report of the International Resource Panel (IRP) Green Energy Choices: The Benefits, Risks and Trade-Offs of Low-Carbon Technologies for Electricity Production aims to support policy-makers in making informed decision about energy technologies, infrastructure and optimal mix.

      The findings of the report show that, compared to coal, electricity generated by hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power can bring substantial reductions in greenhouse gases emissions (by more than 90 per cent), and also of pollutants harmful to human health and ecosystems (by 60-90 per cent). The capture and storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power plants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent, but increase the pollution damaging human health and ecosystems by 5-80 per cent.

      The key to sound energy decisions lies in selecting the right mix of technologies according to local or regional circumstances and putting in place safeguard procedures to mitigate and monitor potential impacts. This demands careful assessment of various impacts of different alternatives, so as to avoid the unintended negative consequences, and to achieve the most desirable mix of environmental, social and economic benefits.

      • UNEP (2016) Green Energy Choices: The benefits, risks and trade-offs of low-carbon technologies for electricity production. Report of the International Resource Panel. E. G. Hertwich, J. Aloisi de Larderel, A. Arvesen, P. Bayer, J. Bergesen, E. Bouman, T. Gibon, G. Heath, C. Peña, P. Purohit, A. Ramirez, S. Suh, (eds.).

      Did you know?

      Renewables produce 5-6% of the GHG emissions of coal-fired plants and 8-10% of gas-fired plants.

      Did you know?

      Producing electricity causes a quarter of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions

      Did you know?

      Renewables cause significantly lower pollution, but have a higher demand for structural materials

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