Oct 24, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Global energy agency sees "beginning of the end" of fossil fuels

Projected global natural gas demand
Data: IEA; Note: Projections based on nations' energy, climate and industrial policies that year; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

The International Energy Agency has made very recent and very big cuts to their future global gas demand estimates.

State of play: Surging renewables, the Russia crisis speeding moves away from gas, and other forces led IEA to shake up their estimates.

Why it matters: It's part of a wider theme running through IEA's latest long-term World Energy Outlook, published Tuesday.

  • The organization now sees demand for coal, gas and oil all peaking this decade under nations' existing policies as energy transition takes root.

The big picture: "A legacy of the global energy crisis may be to usher in the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era," it states, referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Yes, but: Current policies won't bring emissions cuts anywhere near what's needed to keep Paris Agreement goals alive.

  • Energy-related CO2 will peak in the mid-2020s, the IEA notes, but the decline is gentle enough that Earth still warms by 2.4°C above preindustrial levels by 2100.

What we're watching: They see a feasible — though immensely challenging — path this decade to getting things much closer to a 1.5°C pathway.

  • It calls for COP28 talks to set 2030 goals like tripling renewables capacity, and doubling of efficiency improvements to 4% annually, among others.

Reality check: Plenty of analysts are very skeptical about relatively close oil and gas peak.

What they're saying: "The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it's unstoppable. It's not a question of 'if', it's just a matter of 'how soon' – and the sooner the better for all of us," IEA boss Fatih Birol said.

The agency's estimate of what's expected under current policies includes...

  • 50%, the projected share of new U.S. car sales that will be electric in 2030.
  • 47%, which is renewables' projected share of the global power mix in 2030.
  • 80%, renewables' projected share of new power generating capacity additions through 2030, led by solar.
  • 15%, Russia's projected share of internationally traded gas in 2030, down from 30% pre-invasion. Expanded sales to China don't fully compensate losses elsewhere.
  • 26%, oil's share of global energy supply in 2050, not that far below 30% in 2022 despite the projected peak.
  • 73%, the share of fossil fuels in global energy supply in 2030 after being stuck for decades around 80%.

The bottom line: These snapshots show powerful growth of climate-friendly sources and the persistence of fossil fuels.

  • It's why IEA is modeling — and promoting — more Paris-friendly hypothetical scenarios that demand more aggressive policies and finance.

Go deeper: The world is way off track on climate goals

Go deeper