We recently attended Fatih Birol’s presentation in advance of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) first publication of the Global Energy and CO₂ Status Report. Their flagship publication, World Energy Outlook, was published in November 2017.
As the IEA’s director and a leading energy expert Birol’s talk was illuminating, particularly as the international energy landscape is becoming an increasingly critical issue for us all. It seems we don’t just need more energy to power a growing world population, but we also need considerably more power behind the movement for energy reform and to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.
Here are our top 10 takeaways ON THE OUTLOOK FOR WORLD ENERGY
1. We’re going to need a lot more energy
On our current path we will need 30% more energy by 2040 to meet demand. One third of this will come from India and the IEA estimate that they will add the equivalent of the EU to their electricity generation by then. China will add the equivalent of the US!
2. Renewables are booming
Renewables saw the highest growth rate of any energy source in 2017 and renewable technologies in general are getting cheaper, with solar currently being the cheapest. Another significant cost reduction is anticipated as China continues in leaps and bounds with renewable energy generation. 6 out of 10 solar PV (photovoltaics) cells are produced in China at present. However, challenges such as renewables’ intermittency still need to be tackled.
3. The global energy landscape is shifting
China is developing an energy strategy that includes ambitious and large-scale renewable solutions. Russia remains the most important player in the gas market, but the role of the US, Canada and Australia is gathering pace as the demand for export to Asia is growing. Trade is shifting from the pipelines of Russia towards LNG (liquid nitrogen gas) being shipped. In terms of nuclear power, the US and to a certain extent France’s, nuclear fleet is ageing and there is little appetite to build new or extend the lifetime of existing operating plants. China is set to overtake the US as a global leader in the area of nuclear technology exports.
4. Access to electricity is improving
To ensure affordable, reliable and modern energy for all is one of the Sustainable Development Goals but sub-Saharan Africa still lags behind and efforts should be redoubled, especially considering the high solar and hydro-power potential.
5. The IEA is using a new Sustainable Development Scenario
This new scenario for determining the world energy outlook ‘provides a benchmark for measuring progress towards a more broadly sustainable energy future’ by integrating the three Sustainable Development Goals that are most closely related to energy. It is vital to do this as energy is linked to human health impacts due to emissions, inequalities due to energy access according to wealth and gender, poverty alleviation and even education.
6. It’s increasingly important to stay chilled
Cooling is set to be one of the major drivers of future electricity demand, only out done by industrial growth, but more than the growing demand for electric vehicles. In the wake of global warming, population rise and increased standards of living, the requirement of energy intensive air-conditioning will increase hugely.
7. Storage is crucial
Especially to facilitate increasing uptake of renewables. However, even though costs are going down, there is still no major market penetration and considerably more capacity for energy storage is required.
8. We need to focus on buildings
Energy efficiency needs to focus on buildings due to the long-term lock-in effect of infrastructure. Improvements have been made in the global buildings sector thanks to continued adoption and enforcement of building energy codes and efficiency standards. Yet progress has not been fast enough to offset growth and increasing demand for energy from buildings.
9. Despite progress, fossil fuels are stubborn
In the 1980s at the time of the Brundtland report and before climate change was close to the forefront of public consciousness, 83% of the world’s energy was generated using fossil fuels. Despite the changing landscape, in 2017 fossil fuels still accounted for 81% of energy supply.
10. We’re going to need even more energy to meet the Paris Agreement
Current trends are not enough. Despite a shifting landscape, oil demand is still set to grow. Energy demand grew by 2.1% in 2017 and fossil fuels met over 70% of this growth. With growth in shipping, trucking and aviation, demand is projected to rise to 105 million barrels a day. We need 580 million more electric vehicles, double efficiency and triple the installed capacity of solar panels to stay below the two degree threshold of temperature increase. International government policies need to play a vital part in powering the changes required to meet our collective target.