October 14, 2020 oil and gas

World Energy Outlook 2020 shows how response to the COVID crisis can reshape future of energy


PARIS, 13th October, 2020 (WAM) -- Amid deep disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the International Energy Agency said a surge in well-designed energy policies is needed to put the world on track for a resilient energy system that can meet climate goals.

'It has been a tumultuous year for the global energy system. The Covid-19 crisis has caused more disruption than any other event in recent history, leaving scars that will last for years to come. But whether this upheaval ultimately helps or hinders efforts to accelerate clean energy transitions and reach international energy and climate goals will depend on how governments respond to today’s challenges,' according to the World Energy Outlook 2020, the IEA’s flagship publication, which focuses on the pivotal period of the next 10 years, exploring different pathways out of the crisis.

The new report provides the latest IEA analysis of the pandemic’s impact: global energy demand is set to drop by 5% in 2020, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7%, and energy investment by 18%. The WEO’s established approach – comparing different scenarios that show how the energy sector could develop – is more valuable than ever in these uncertain times.

In the Stated Policies Scenario, which reflects today’s announced policy intentions and targets, global energy demand rebounds to its pre-crisis level in early 2023. However, this does not happen until 2025 in the event of a prolonged pandemic and deeper slump, as shown in the Delayed Recovery Scenario. Slower demand growth lowers the outlook for oil and gas prices compared with pre-crisis trends. But large falls in investment increase the risk of future market volatility.

Renewables take starring roles in all our scenarios, with solar centre stage. Supportive policies and maturing technologies are enabling very cheap access to capital in leading markets. Solar PV is now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest cost electricity ever seen. In the Stated Policies Scenario, renewables meet 80% of global electricity demand growth over the next decade. Hydropower remains the largest renewable source, but solar is the main source of growth, followed by onshore and offshore wind.

'I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets. Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022,' said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. 'If governments and investors step up their clean energy efforts in line with our Sustainable Development Scenario, the growth of both solar and wind would be even more spectacular – and hugely encouraging for overcoming the world’s climate challenge.'

The WEO-2020 shows that strong growth of renewables needs to be paired with robust investment in electricity grids. Without enough investment, grids will prove to be a weak link in the transformation of the power sector, with implications for the reliability and security of electricity supply.

Fossil fuels face varying challenges. Coal demand does not return to pre-crisis levels in the Stated Policies Scenario, with its share in the 2040 energy mix falling below 20% for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. But demand for natural gas grows significantly, mainly in Asia, while oil remains vulnerable to the major economic uncertainties resulting from the pandemic.

'The era of global oil demand growth will come to an end in the next decade,' Dr Birol said. 'But without a large shift in government policies, there is no sign of a rapid decline. Based on today’s policy settings, a global economic rebound would soon push oil demand back to pre-crisis levels.'

The worst effects of the crisis are felt among the most vulnerable. The pandemic has reversed several years of declines in the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa without access to electricity. And a rise in poverty levels may have made basic electricity services unaffordable for more than 100 million people worldwide who had electricity connections.

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