Subsidizing Renewables Won’t Alleviate Global Energy Poverty

The International Energy Agency (IEA) claims in a new study that the world will have to triple “investments” in renewable energy to stave off the most severe effects of climate change. The presumption is that governments will continue to mandate the use of less fossil fuels and that renewables will need to make up the gap—and still provide energy to billions of people around the world.

IEA should have examined a more fundamental question: why are we weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels when billions of people still lack access to energy?

To answer this question, IEA could look to its own report, which found that 1.3 billion people don’t have access to electricity and 2.6 billion people don’t have access to clean cooking facilities.

Developing countries like China and India owe much of their economic growth to increased energy use—and most of that energy has come from fossil fuels. Renewables play a minor role in their energy mix, and aren’t abundant enough to replace fossil fuels.

Increasing fossil fuel use is a tried-and-true method of alleviating poverty. Increasing “investments”—aka taxpayer subsidies—in renewables is not. In fact, it’s a recipe for higher energy prices, fewer jobs, and reduced economic growth. In other words, IEA wants us to take a reckless gamble on renewables, when a proven solution to world poverty already exists.

Rather than doling out more subsidies for costly renewable energy, IEA should look to America’s energy revolution as an example of what private innovation can accomplish in the free market. They certainly won’t find the key to alleviating world energy poverty by digging deeper into taxpayers’ pockets.

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