Nov 14, 2017 - Energy & Environment

Takeaways from the IEA's World Energy Outlook

The IEA's World Energy Outlook for 2017 revealed that total global energy demand now rises more slowly than in the past, but still increases by 30% between now and 2040 under the New Policies model, which looks at nations' existing and officially announced policies.

Data: IEA World Energy Outlook 2017, OECD/IEA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Other takeaways:

Climate change: Global carbon emissions from energy (which is the main source) increase slightly between now and 2040 in the New Policies scenario.

  • Why it matters: It shows that absent more aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gases, the world will fail badly to achieve the steep emissions cuts needed to hold the eventual rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees celsius above preindustrial levels — the goal of the Paris agreement aiming to avoid some of the most dangerous climatic changes.

A changing mix: Check out the chart above. It shows the sources of past and future emissions growth and in the process illustrates the seismic shifts underway in global energy.

  • Emissions growth from coal is headed sharply downward as demand stagnates, thanks to renewables and gas playing a more prominent role in the global electricity and industry mix. That's why gas, while emitting much lower carbon than coal on a per-unit basis, becomes a bigger source of incremental emissions growth.
  • Oil becomes a more prominent source of relative emissions growth, thanks to persistent demand for transport and petrochemical production.

No oil peak: Global demand for oil keeps rising in the New Policies scenario, albeit slowing down after the mid-2020s, reaching almost 105 million barrels per day in 2040.

  • Greater auto efficiency and the rise of electric vehicles is more than offset by oil demand from petrochemical production, trucking, aviation and shipping.

Renewables rise: Renewables meet 40% of the growth of energy demand, signaling the huge changes underway in the electricity sector as gas, wind, and solar have gained as coal stagnates.

  • "Renewables capture two-thirds of global investment in power plants as they become, for many countries, the least-cost source of new generation," IEA notes.

Don't forget: Standard disclaimers apply here because, well, it's the future we're talking about. And indeed IEA looks at multiple pathways, including a "sustainable development" scenario that's far more climate-friendly, which we touched on in the Axios stream last night.

Go deeper: Read the detailed executive summary here.

Go deeper