The International Energy Agency has released a new edition of its annual flagship publication ‘World Energy Outlook’. Its most significant finding is that based on current policy settings alone, major shifts now underway are set to result in a considerably different global energy system by the end of this decade.

WEO, said to be the authoritative source of global energy analysis and projections, finds that the phenomenal rise of clean energy technologies such as solar, wind, electric cars and heat pumps is reshaping how we power everything from factories and vehicles to home appliances and heating systems.

“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “Governments, companies and investors need to get behind clean energy transitions rather than hindering them.”

The WEO-2023 also examines the evolving range of energy security challenges at a time of rising geopolitical tensions. The fraught situation in the Middle East, 50 years after the oil shock that led to the IEA’s founding, comes as many countries continue to contend with the effects of the global energy crisis that erupted last year. And it creates further uncertainty for an unsettled global economy that is feeling the effects of stubborn inflation and high borrowing costs.

Highlights from WEO2023 include:

  • Clean energy technologies will surge between now and 2030 based on today’s policy settings alone. By the end of the decade, there are set to be almost 10 times as many electric cars on the road worldwide. Solar will generate more electricity than the entire United States does currently, and renewables’ share of the global electricity mix will near 50%, up from around 30% today.
  • In this scenario, the share of fossil fuels in global energy supply, which has been stuck for decades at around 80%, declines to 73% by 2030, and global energy-related CO2 emissions peak by 2025.
  • Total energy demand in China, the world’s largest energy consumer, is set to reach a high around the middle of this decade as its economy slows and undergoes structural changes. Continued dynamic growth in clean energy will put the country’s fossil fuel demand and emissions into decline.
  • However, demand for fossil fuels globally is set to remain far too high to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 °C. To keep this target within reach, the WEO-2023 proposes a five-pillar global strategy,

Five pillars

WEO-2023 puts forward a global strategy to keep alive the Paris Agreement goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 °C – a blueprint that can also provide the basis for a successful energy package at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai. 

The five pillars to get the world on track by 2030:

Tripling global renewable capacity; doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements; slashing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations by 75%; establishing large-scale financing mechanisms to support clean energy investments in emerging and developing economies; and pursuing measures to ensure an orderly decline in the use of fossil fuels.

Image: 5 pillars to keep 1.5 °C alive (Source: IEA)