In 2017, for the first time, the number of people without access to electricity dipped below one billion, according to the World Energy Outlook 2018 published in late November by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Nevertheless, trends on energy access likewise fall short of global goals. More than 700 million people are projected to remain without electricity in 2040, most of them living in rural settlements in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, only slow progress has been made in reducing reliance on the traditional use of solid biomass as a cooking fuel, the authors state.
While the geography of energy consumption continues its historic shift to Asia, the report finds mixed signals on the pace and direction of change. Oil markets, for instance, are entering a period of renewed uncertainty and volatility, including a possible supply gap in the early 2020s. Demand for natural gas is on the rise, erasing talk of a glut as China emerges as a giant consumer. Solar PV is charging ahead, but other low-carbon technologies and especially efficiency policies still require a big push.
In power markets, renewables have become the technology of choice, making up almost two-thirds of global capacity additions to 2040, thanks to falling costs and supportive government policies. This is transforming the global power mix, with the share of renewables in generation rising to over 40 per cent by 2040, from 25 per cent today, even though coal remains the largest source and gas remains the second-largest.
Electricity markets are also undergoing a unique transformation with higher demand brought by the digital economy, electric vehicles and other technological change. As part of its deep-dive into the electricity sector this year, the report also examines what the impact of higher electrification is like in transportation, buildings and industry. The analysis finds that higher electrification would lead to a peak in oil demand by 2030, and reduce harmful local air pollutant. But it would have a negligible impact on carbon emissions without stronger efforts to increase the share of renewables and low-carbon sources of power.
The IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario offers a pathway to meeting various climate, air quality and universal access goals in an integrated way. In this scenario, global energy-related CO2 emissions peak around 2020 and then enter a steep and sustained decline, fully in line with the trajectory required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
But most emissions linked to energy infrastructure are already essentially locked-in. In particular, coal-fired power plants, which account for one-third of energy-related CO2 emissions today, represent more than a third of cumulative locked-in emissions up to 2040. The vast majority of these are related to projects in Asia, where average coal plants are just eleven years old on average with decades left to operate, compared with an average 40 years in the United States and Europe.
More information: https://webstore.iea.org/world-energy-outlook-2018