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IEA releases World Energy Outlook 2014

12 November 2014

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released the 2014 edition of its World Energy Outlook (WEO-2014), which emphasizes that events of the last year—such as the instability in the Middle East—have increased many of the long-term uncertainties facing the global energy sector. The report warns about the risk that current events distract decision makers from recognizing and tackling the longer-term signs of stress emerging in the energy system.

In the central scenario of WEO-2014, world primary energy demand is 37% higher in 2040, putting more pressure on the global energy system. The scenario shows that world demand for two out of the three fossil fuels—coal and oil—essentially reaches a plateau by 2040. At the same time, renewable energy technologies gain ground, helped by falling costs and subsidies (estimated at $120 billion in 2013). By 2040, world energy supply is divided into four approximately equal parts: (1) low-carbon sources (nuclear and renewables), (2) oil, (3) natural gas and (4) coal.

In an in-depth focus on nuclear power, WEO-2014 sees installed capacity grow by 60% to 2040 in the central scenario, with the increase concentrated heavily in just four countries—China, India, Korea and Russia. Despite this, the share of nuclear power in the global power mix remains well below its historic peak. Nuclear power plays a strategic role in enhancing energy security and reducing energy-related CO2 emissions, but faces significant market and regulatory risks, as well as public acceptance challenges, says the report.

The report sees a positive outlook for renewables, which are expected to account for nearly half of the global increase in power generation to 2040, and overtake coal as the leading source of electricity. Wind power accounts for the largest share of growth in renewables-based generation, followed by hydropower and solar technologies.

World oil supply rises to 104 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2040, but hinges critically on investments in the Middle East. As tight oil output in the United States levels off, and non-OPEC supply falls back in the 2020s, the Middle East becomes the major source of supply growth. Growth in world oil demand slows to a near halt by 2040. China overtakes the United States as the largest oil consumer around 2030 but, as its population levels off, India emerges as a key driver of growth, as do sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

“A well-supplied oil market in the short-term should not disguise the challenges that lie ahead, as the world is set to rely more heavily on a relatively small number of producing countries,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. “The apparent breathing space provided by rising output in the Americas over the next decade provides little reassurance, given the long lead times of new upstream projects.”

Demand for gas is more than 50% higher in 2040, and it is the only fossil fuel still growing significantly at that time. The United States remains the largest global gas producer, although production levels off in the late 2030s as shale gas output starts to recede. East Africa emerges alongside Qatar, Australia, North America and others as an important source of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is an increasingly important tool for gas security. A key uncertainty for gas outside of North America is whether it can be made available at prices that are low enough to be attractive for consumers and yet high enough to incentivize large investments in supply.

While coal is abundant and its supply relatively secure, its future use is constrained by measures to improve efficiency, tackle local pollution and reduce CO2 emissions. Coal demand is 15% higher in 2040 but growth slows to a near halt in the 2020s. Regional trends vary, with demand reaching a peak in China, dropping by one-third in the United States, but continuing to grow in India.

The global energy system continues to face a major energy poverty crisis. In sub-Saharan Africa, two out of every three people do not have access to electricity. Meanwhile, costly fossil fuel consumption subsidies (estimated at $550 billion in 2013) are often intended to help increase energy access, but fail to help those that need it most and discourage investment in efficiency and renewables.

A critical “sign of stress” is the failure to transform the energy system quickly enough to stem the rise in energy-related CO2 emissions—which grow by one-fifth to 2040.

Source: IEA