Seven essential graphs from the IEA’s World Energy Outlook
- 12 Nov 2012, 17:00
- Robin Webster
The International Energy Agency today released the latest
instalment of its
World Energy Outlook (WEO). The report's projections are widely
seen as the Bible of the energy world - and it certainly contains
enough graphs and stats to keep energy geeks happy.
This year's instalment includes the surprise prediction that the
United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the biggest world-wide
producer of oil before 2020. But it also contains some sober
predictions of expected temperature rise based on current trends
as, not for the first time, the IEA warns that the world is on an
unsustainable energy path.
We have picked out a few of the most useful and interesting
Fossil fuels still rule
The report looks at energy trends from 2011. It says fossil
fuels remained the most significant source of power, with little
sign that this will change. The following graph contrasts energy
demand by fuel in 2010 with predictions for 2035 under its central
Policies Scenario', which assumes that countries will deliver
on all their current commitments to reduce greenhouse gas
Subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels
In total, the IEA expects subsidies for renewable energy to rise
from $88 billion now to nearly $240 billion in 2030. The IEA
projects that renewables will account for one-third of total
electricity output by 2035 - largely as a result of government
But its worth noting that the IEA also says that subsidies for
fossil fuels amounted to $523 billion in 2011 - up almost 30 per
cent on 2010 and six times more than current subsidies for
renewables. According to the IEA, the cost of fossil fuel subsidies
has been driven up by higher oil prices. Fossil fuel subsidies are
most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, where the IEA
says recent changes of government may also have impacted on
commitments to roll them back.
Emerging economies are driving energy
The report highlights that the balance of power-hunger is
shifting towards emerging economies. The IEA predicts that by 2035,
the rich countries of the OECD will need just 3 per cent more
energy than they did in 2010. Meanwhile, the need for electricity
in emerging economies is expected to drive a 70 per cent increase
in worldwide demand.
This pattern is reflected in changes in the amount of power
generated by different countries, with China ahead of everyone else
in increasing power generation, as this graph shows:
America and Iraq, changing the energy world
The IEA says: "
The global energy map is changing in dramatic fashion". Why? It
argues that North America is "at the forefront of a sweeping
transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all
regions of the world". Access to new sources of oil and gas - like
light oil' and shale gas - mean that the USA's production of
fossil fuels is predicted to rocket in the next couple of
By 2017, the United States is projected to have become the
largest global oil producer in the world - exceeding even Saudi
Arabia. And the IEA says that the US - which currently imports 20
per cent of its energy needs - will be "all but self-sufficient in
net terms by 2035" - although this is partially due to new fuel
efficiency standards for cars and trucks.
The IEA predicts that growth in US shale gas means the country's
energy prices will be significantly lower than in the EU and Japan.
While dependence on imported oil and gas is expected to rise in
many countries, the United States, will swim "against the tide" -
and reap the benefits in terms of increased international
The other country worthy of special mention is Iraq. The report
predicts that Iraq will account for nearly half (45 per cent) of
global expansion in oil production until 2035. By the mid 2030s,
most of Iraq's oil is expected to be exported to Asia, as this
Carbon emissions and climate change
The IEA have already concluded that emissions of carbon dioxide
from the energy sector
reached a new record high in 2011. It says:
"Taking all developments and policies
into account, the world is still failing to put the global energy
system onto a more sustainable path".
The IEA expects that even under its new policies scenario,
global energy demand will increase by a third by 2035. It predicts
that this corresponds to a "long-term average global temperature
increase of 3.6°C".
If countries do not deliver on their commitments to reduce
emissions, the report predicts energy demand will be even greater.
Without these policies, the IEA believes the world is on track for
a temperature rise of 5.3 degrees Celsius.
The following graph shows the IEA's projections for emissions of
carbon dioxide from the energy system under different
Energy efficiency gets its own scenario
Energy efficiency gets much more prominence in this year's
report. The IEA has created a new scenario unpacking the benefits
of bringing in energy efficiency measures.
The scenario predicts that growth in global energy demand up to
2035 can be halved by the implementation of economically beneficial
energy efficiency measures. The IEA also says that introducing
these measures could boost economic growth by US $18 trillion
The IEA uses the concept of 'lock-in' to examine this question.
On current trends, it argues that the world will be 'locked in' to
a temperature rise of two degrees Celsius by 2017. This means that
by 2017 the world will already have constructed enough
infrastructure - like roads and power plant - to guarantee a two
degrees Celsius temperature rise.
The implementation of economically beneficial energy efficiency
measures would buy the world some time - delaying the 'lock in'
date until 2022 by reducing overall consumption.
The IEA argues in today's press release that its energy
efficiency scenario shows:
"...energy efficiency is just as
important as unconstrained energy supply, and increased action on
efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings
In this morning's briefing, IEA chief economist Fatih Birol
argued that the world's failure to implement energy efficiency
measures amounts to an "epic failure". But it was not a topic that
attracted a lot of questions from journalists in the subsequent
press briefing. Despite the IEA's efforts, it seems likely that
energy efficiency may again lose out to the report's more
You can see most - but not all - of the graphs in the IEA's
presentation to press.
UPDATE 13th November: The United States is predicted to
overtake Saudi Arabia as the biggest producer of oil - not exporter
as we originally stated in the introduction.