World Energy Outlook 2018 examines future patterns of a changing global energy system at a time of increasing uncertainties and finds that major transformations are underway for the global energy sector. Across all regions and fuels, policy choices made by governments will determine the shape of the energy system of the future.  Vestas photo.

World Energy Outlook explores different possible futures

This article was published by the International Energy Agency

The World Energy Outlook (WEO) does not aim to forecast the future, but provides a way of exploring different possible futures, the levers that could bring them about, and the interactions that arise across a complex energy system.

If there is no change in policies from today, as in the Current Policies Scenario, this leads to increasing strains on almost all aspects of energy security and a major additional rise in energy-related CO2 emissions.

Our New Policies Scenario broadens the scope to include policies and targets announced by governments. While the picture brightens, there is still no peak in global energy-related CO2 emissions.

The gap between this outcome and the Sustainable Development Scenario, in which accelerated clean energy transitions put the world on track to meet goals related to climate change, universal access and clean air, remains huge.

None of these potential pathways is preordained; all are possible. The actions taken by governments will be decisive in determining which path we follow.

The New Policies Scenario

Global energy demand grows by more than a quarter to 2040 in the New Policies Scenario, due to rising incomes and a global population growing by 1.7 billion people, mostly in urban areas of developing economies.

The increase in energy demand would be about twice as large if it were not for continued improvements in energy efficiency, a powerful policy tool to address energy security and sustainability concerns.

All the growth comes from developing economies, led by India. As recently as the year 2000, Europe and North America accounted for more than 40 per cent of global energy demand and developing economies in Asia for around 20 per cent.

By 2040, this situation is completely reversed. Low-carbon technologies, led by renewables, and natural gas meet more than 80 per cent of the increase in global demand. Electricity consumption grows twice as fast as overall energy demand.

The shale revolution continues to shake up oil and gas supply, enabling the United States to pull away from the rest of the field as the world’s largest oil and gas producer.

By 2025, nearly one in five barrels of oil and one in four cubic metre of gas in the world come from the United States. This adds to the pressure on traditional oil and gas exporters that rely heavily on export revenues to support their national development.

The Sustainable Development Scenario

Our Sustainable Development Scenario provides an integrated strategy to achieve the key energy-related elements of the United Nations Sustainable Development agenda, including energy access, air quality and climate objectives. The emissions trajectory of the Sustainable Development Scenario is fully in line with achieving the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement.

To deliver the outcomes of this scenario, the power sector proceeds further and faster with the deployment of low-emissions generation. Renewable energy technologies provide the main pathway to the provision of universal energy access.

All economically viable avenues to improve efficiency are pursued, keeping overall demand in 2040 at today’s level.

Electrification of end-uses grows strongly, but so too does the direct use of renewables – bioenergy, solar and geothermal heat – to provide heat and mobility.

The share of renewables in the power mix rises from one-quarter today to two-thirds in 2040; in the provision of heat it rises from 10 per cent today to 25 per cent and in transport it rises from 3.5 per cent today to 19 per cent (including both direct use and indirect use, e.g. renewables-based electricity).

The World Energy Model

Since 1993, the IEA has provided medium to long-term energy projections using the World Energy Model (WEM) – a large-scale simulation model designed to replicate how energy markets function.

The WEM is the principal tool used to generate detailed sector-by-sector and region-by-region projections for the WEO scenarios.