Global Emissions From Electricity Set to Fall Even as Power Demand Climbs, IEA Predicts
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Global Emissions From Electricity Set to Fall Even as Power Demand Climbs, IEA Predicts

Starting this year, record generation from renewables and nuclear will cover rising power demand from growth in emerging markets, AI and data centers, the agency says

By GIULIA PETRONI
Mon, Jan 29, 2024 8:50amGrey Clock 2 min

Global demand for electricity is set to grow at a faster rate over the next three years, but with record power generation from renewables and nuclear expected to cover the surge, emissions will likely go into structural decline, according to the International Energy Agency.

Electricity demand is on track to rise by an average of 3.4% a year through 2026, driven by robust growth in emerging economies, AI, cryptocurrencies and data centres, according to the Paris-based organisation’s latest report. However, global carbon-dioxide emissions from power generation are expected to fall, as low-emission energy sources—wind, solar, hydro and nuclear, among others—are likely to account for almost half of the world’s electricity generation by 2026, up from just under 40% last year.

“It’s encouraging that the rapid growth of renewables and a steady expansion of nuclear power are together on course to match all the increase in global electricity demand over the next three years,” IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said on Wednesday.

“This is largely thanks to the huge momentum behind renewables, with ever cheaper solar leading the way, and support from the important comeback of nuclear power, whose generation is set to reach a historic high by 2025.”

In 2023, global CO emissions from electricity generation increased by 1%, but the IEA predicts a fall of more than 2% this year and smaller decreases in the next two years. Generation from cleaner energy sources is expected to rise at twice the annual growth rate seen between 2018 and 2023, while coal-fired generation is forecast to fall by an average of 1.7% annually through 2026, the IEA said.

Rapid growth of renewables will be supported by nuclear power. According to the report, nuclear generation is set to rise by roughly 3% a year on average to the end of 2026, despite a number of countries phasing out nuclear power or closing plants early.

France and Japan will restart several plants while new reactors begin operating in Europe, China, India and Korea. Asia will likely remain the main driver of growth, reaching a 30% share of global nuclear generation in 2026, the IEA said.

For years, nuclear power has been at the centre of the clean-energy debate. Proponents including France argue that it is a reliable, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels, while opponents such as Germany say costs and risks from reactor accidents and waste are too high.

At the United Nations’ COP28 climate summit last year, the U.S. and 21 other nations pledged to triple nuclear power capacity by the middle of the century.

Most of the increase in electricity demand forecast by the IEA is set to come from emerging markets. China is expected to be the largest contributor to growth—with consumption boosted by the production of solar PV modules, electric vehicles and the processing of raw materials—while India is forecast to grow the fastest among major economies.

Rapid expansion of artificial intelligence, data centres and cryptocurrencies will also be a driver of growth, according to the agency, which predicts their power demand could double to roughly the equivalent of electricity consumption in Japan.

Last year, electricity demand growth slowed to 2.2% from 2.4% in 2022, as advanced economies suffered the impact of high inflation and lower industrial output, the IEA said.

Demand in the U.S. decreased by 1.6% after rising 2.6% in 2022, mainly because milder weather reduced the use of heaters and coolers, but demand is expected to recover this year to 2026. European Union power demand declined for the second consecutive year in 2023—despite a fall in energy prices—and isn’t expected to return to high levels until 2026 at the earliest, the IEA said.



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Only 5% of U.S. Foundations Invest for Impact, Study Finds
By ABBY SCHULTZ
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Few of the U.S.’s philanthropic foundations invest their endowment assets—totalling an estimated US$1.1 trillion—to create positive social and environmental change in addition to high returns, potentially limiting or even counteracting the good such organisations do.

Exactly how few isn’t precisely known. But Bridgespan Social Impact, a subsidiary of the New York-based Bridgespan Group along with the Capricorn Investment Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based investment firm founded by Jeff Skoll , the first president of eBay, and the Skoll Foundation, also in Palo Alto, attempted to “get the conservation started,” with a study of 65 foundations with a total of about US$89 billion in assets, according to Mandira Reddy, director at Capricorn Investment Group.

The top-line conclusion: 5% of the primarily U.S.-based foundations surveyed invest their assets for impact. Most surprising is that 92% of these organisations, which have assets ranging from US$11 million to US$16 billion, are active members of impact investing groups, such as the Global Impact Investing Network and Mission Investors Exchange.

“If there’s any pool of capital that is best suited for impact investing, it would be this pool of capital along with family office money,” Reddy says.

The study was also conducted “to draw attention to the opportunity,” she said.

“We want to redefine what philanthropy can achieve. There is massive potential here just given the scale of capital.”

Foundations are required by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to grant 5% of their assets each year to charity; in practice they have granted slightly more in the last 10 years—an average of 7% of their assets, according to Delaware-based FoundationMark, which tracks the investment performance of about 97% of all foundation assets.

The remaining assets of these foundations are invested with the intention of earning the “highest-possible risk-adjusted financial returns,” the report said. Those investments allow these organizations to grant funds often in perpetuity.

Capricorn and Bridgespan argue that more foundations, however, need to “align their capital with their missions,” and that they can do so while still achieving high returns.

“Why wait to distribute resources far into the future when there are numerous urgent issues facing the planet and communities today,” argue the authors of a report on the research, which is titled, “Can Foundation Endowments Achieve Greater Impact.”

The fact most of the foundations surveyed are very familiar with impact investing and yet haven’t taken the leap “highlights the persistently untapped opportunity,” the report said. It details some of the barriers foundations can face in shifting to impact, and how and why to overcome them.

Hurdles to making a shift can include “beginner’s dilemma”—simply not knowing where to start—and a misperception on the part of large foundations that impact investing is “too niche,” offering opportunities that are too small for the amount of capital they need to allocate. Other foundations are too stretched and don’t have the resources to add capabilities for making impact investments, the report said.

One of the biggest concerns is financial performance. Some foundation leaders, for instance, worry impact investments lead to so-called concessionary returns, where a market rate of return is sacrificed to achieve a social or environmental benefit. Those investments exist, but there are also plenty of options that offer financial returns.

The authors make a case for foundations to “go big,” into impact to realize the best outcomes, and to take a portfolio approach, meaning integrating impact principles into how they approach all investments. To make this happen, foundations need to incorporate impact into their investment policy statements, which determine how they allocate assets.

It will be difficult for foundations that want to shift their assets to impact to pull out of investments such as private-equity or venture-capital funds that can have holdings periods of a decade. But with a policy statement in place, a foundation’s investment team can reinvest this long-term capital once it is returned into impact investing options, she says.

“The transition doesn’t happen overnight,” Reddy says. “Even if there is a commitment for an established foundation that is already fully invested, it takes several years to get there.”

The Skoll Foundation, established in 1999, revised its investment policy statement in 2006 to incorporate impact. According to the report, the foundation initially divested of investments that were not in sync with its values, and then gradually, working with Capricorn Investment, began exploring impact opportunities mostly in early-stage companies developing solutions to climate change.

“As the team gained more knowledge and experience in this work, and as more investment opportunities arose, the impact-aligned portfolio expanded across different asset classes, issue areas, and fund managers,” the report said.

As of 2022, 70% of the Skoll Foundation’s assets are in impact investments addressing climate change, inclusive capitalism, health and wellness, and sustainable markets.

Capricorn, which manages US$9 billion for foundations and institutional investors through impact investments, constructs portfolios across asset classes. In private markets, this can include venture, private equity, private credit, real estate, and infrastructure. There are also impact options in the public markets, in both stocks and bonds.

“Across the spectrum there are opportunities available now to do this in an authentic manner while preserving financial goals,” Reddy says.

Of the foundations surveyed, about 15, including Skoll, have 50% or more of their assets invested for impact. Others include the Lora & Martin Kelley Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Russell Family Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Though not part of the study, the California Endowment just announced it was going “all in” on impact. The organisation has US$4 billion in assets under management, which likely makes it the largest foundation to undergo the shift, according to Mission Investors Exchange.

Although the researchers looked at a fairly small sample set of foundations, Reddy says it provides data “that is indicative of what the foundation universe” might look like.

“We cannot tell foundations how to invest and that’s not the intent, but we do want to spread the message that it is quite possible to align their assets to impact,” she says. “The idea is that this becomes a boardroom conversation.”

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