The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2014 warns against the risk that current events are distracting decision makers from recognising and tackling the longer-term signs of stress that are emerging in the global energy system.
WEO 2014 points out that world primary energy demand will have increased by 37 percent higher by 2040, putting more pressure on the global energy system. This would have been greater had it not been for energy efficiency measures that are playing a vital role in holding back growth in global demand. However, renewable energy technologies will gain ground rapidly, helped by falling costs and subsidies (estimated at $120 billion in 2013).
“As our global energy system grows and transforms, signs of stress continue to emerge” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “But renewables are expected to go from strength to strength, and it is incredible that we can now see a point where they become the world’s number one source of electricity generation.”
Renewables are expected to account for nearly half of the global increase in power generation to 2040, overtaking coal as the leading source of electricity. Wind power accounts for the largest share of growth in renewable generation, followed by hydropower and solar technologies. However, as the share of wind and solar PV in the global power mix quadruples, the integration of both technologies becomes more challenging from both a technical and market perspective.
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 will grow by one-fifth to 2040) and put the world on a path consistent with a long-term global temperature increase of 2°C. In the central scenario, the entire carbon budget allowed under a 2°C climate trajectory is consumed by 2040, highlighting the need for a comprehensive and ambitious agreement at the COP21 meeting in Paris in 2015.