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IEA World Energy Outlook: “If We Don’t Change Direction, We’ll End Up Where We’re Heading”

Big Gav's picture
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  • Nov 14, 2011

SP at TOD ANZ has a look at the latest IEA report – “If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re heading”.

That is the prominent quote headlining the English language executive summary of the World Energy Outlook Report of the International Energy Agency released Wednesday.

The following are selected passages from the projections made by the IEA. Bolding is as in the original, underlining and [text ] added.

There are few signs that the urgently needed change in direction in global energy trends is underway. Although the recovery in the world economy since 2009 has been uneven, and future economic prospects remain uncertain, global primary energy demand rebounded by a remarkable 5% in 2010, pushing CO2 emissions to a new high. Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400 billion.

Despite the priority in many countries to increase energy efficiency, global energy intensity worsened for the second straight year. Against this unpromising background, events such as those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have cast doubts on the reliability of energy supply, while concerns about sovereign financial integrity have shifted the focus of government attention away from energy policy and limited their means of policy intervention, boding ill for agreed global climate change objectives.

The assumptions of a global population that increases by 1.7 billion people and 3.5% annual average growth in the global economy generate ever-higher demand for energy
services and mobility. A lower rate of global GDP growth in the short-term than assumed in this Outlook would make only a marginal difference to longer-term trends.

The age of fossil fuels is far from over, but their dominance declines. Demand for all fuels rises, but the share of fossil fuels in global primary energy consumption falls slightly from 81% in 2010 to 75% in 2035; natural gas is the only fossil fuel to increase its share in the global mix over the period to 2035. In the power sector, renewable energy technoogies, led by hydro-power and wind, account for half of the new capacity installed to meet growing demand.

We cannot afford to delay further action to tackle climate change if the long-term target of limiting the global average temperature increase to 2°C, as analysed in the 450 Scenario, is to be achieved at reasonable cost. In the New Policies Scenario, the world is on a trajectory that results in a level of emissions consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of more than 3.5°C. Without these new policies, we are on an even more dangerous track, for a temperature increase of 6°C or more.


Four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permissible by 2035 in the 450 Scenario are already “locked-in” by our existing capital stock (power plants,  buildings, factories, etc.). If stringent new action is not forthcoming by 2017, the energy-related infrastructure then in place will generate all the CO2 emissions allowed in the 450 Scenario up to 2035, leaving no room for additional power plants, factories and other infrastructure unless they are zero-carbon…  Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment avoided in the power sector before 2020 an additional $4.3 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.

In the 450 Scenario, we need to achieve an even higher pace of change, with efficiency improvements accounting for half of the additional reduction in emissions. The most important contribution to reaching energy security and climate goals comes from the energy that we do not consume.

Rising transport demand and upstream costs reconfirm the end of cheap oil. All of the net increase in oil demand comes from the transport sector in emerging economies, as economic growth pushes up demand for personal mobility and freight.

Four-fifths of oil consumed in non-OECD Asia comes from imports in 2035, compared with just over half in 2010. Globally, reliance grows on a relatively small number of producers, mainly in the MENA region, with oil shipped along vulnerable supply

Coal has met almost half of the increase in global energy demand over the last decade. Whether this trend alters and how quickly is among the most important questions for the future of the global energy economy. Maintaining current policies would see coal use rise by a further 65% by 2035, overtaking oil as the largest fuel in the global energy mix.


China’s consumption of coal is almost half of global demand and its Five-Year Plan for 2011 to 2015, which aims to reduce the energy and carbon intensity of the economy, will be a determining factor for world coal markets. China’s emergence as a net coal importer in 2009 led to rising prices and new investment in exporting countries, including Australia, Indonesia, Russia and Mongolia.

India’s coal use doubles in the New Policies Scenario, so that India displaces the United States as the world’s second-largest coal consumer and becomes the largest coal importer in the 2020s.

If the average efficiency of all coal-fired power plants were to be five percentage points higher than in the New Policies Scenario in 2035 … CO2 emissions from the power sector [would be lower] by 8%

…CCS plays a role only towards the end of the projection period…

…If CCS is not [or can not be] widely deployed in the 2020s, an extraordinary burden would rest on other low-carbon technologies…


 For further detail go to the website. There is a 6 page factsheet

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