Africa, Asia and Oceania, Canada, Europe, Government and Policy News, Latin America, North America, Research and Development

What does IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2018 say about hydropower?

The International Energy Agency released its World Energy Outlook 2018, which “examines future patterns of a changing global energy system at a time of increasing uncertainties.” IEA says that “major transformations are underway for the global energy sector” and “policy choices made by governments will determine the shape of the energy system of the future.

How does hydroelectric power figure in IEA’s overall findings?

Hydro remains the largest source of low carbon electricity, followed by wind power and solar PV.

However, under the New Policies Scenario, solar PV is predicted to pass hydro in terms of installed power capacity in 2030. Solar PV is even expected to pass coal in 2037, becoming the second largest installed power capacity source in 2040.

Hydro is expected to continue on a gently rising trajectory, in terms of installed capacity, through 2040, starting 2017 well over 1,000 GW and arriving at nearly 2,000 GW by 2040.

In the bigger picture, the IEA report contains some interesting outcomes and perspectives. See the below analysis by Kelvin Ross with Power Engineering International:

According to IEA, “2018 is the year of electricity” and global electricity supply “is being transformed by the rise of renewables.”

“Electricity has been the fastest growing element of final demand and is set to grow much faster than energy consumption as a whole over the next 25 years,” said Dr Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director.

Speaking at the launch in London of IEA’s annual WEO, Birol noted that the power sector now attracts more investment than oil and gas combined – a major shift for the energy market. And it also marks a similar shift for the IEA itself – for the first time, it devotes several chapters in the weighty WEO to electric power.

The WEO states that global electricity supply “is being transformed by the rise of renewables, putting electricity at the centre of the response to a range of environmental challenges.”

It stresses that “increasing digitalization of the global economy is going hand-in-hand with electrification, making the need for electricity for daily living more essential than ever. Electricity is increasingly the ‘fuel’ of choice for meeting the energy needs of households and companies.”

[Native Advertisement]In what it calls its New Policies Scenario, IEA forecasts that between now and 2040, nearly 90% of electricity demand growth will be in developing countries, while demand in advanced economies will come on the back of policies promoting the electrification of mobility and heat.

In this scenario, it adds that by 2040, electricity demand in China will be more than twice that of the US, “with India a not-too-distant third.”

And IEA notes that the potential for further electrification from today “is huge”: 65% of final energy use could technically be met by electricity – today’s figure is 19%.

Birol also confirmed that for the first time, the total number of people with no access to electricity has fallen below 1 billion, driven in large part by the rural electrification efforts of the India government.

And this kind of government intervention will increase, predicts IEA. It advises that governments will have a critical influence in the direction of the future energy system, far more so than in recent years.

“Over 70 per cent of global energy investments will be government-driven and as such the message is clear – the world’s energy destiny lies with government decisions,” Birol said. “Crafting the right policies and proper incentives will be critical to meeting our common goals of securing energy supplies, reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality in urban centres, and expanding basic access to energy in Africa and elsewhere.”

The WEO finds mixed signals on the pace and direction of change. Oil markets are “entering a period of renewed uncertainty and volatility, including a possible supply gap in the early 2020s”. Meanwhile, demand for natural gas is on the rise, “erasing talk of a glut, as China emerges as a giant consumer.”

IEA notes that 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.”

Birol said that this “is transforming the global power mix”, and he forecast that the share of renewables in generation will rise to over 40 per cent by 2040, from 25 per cent today, even though coal remains the largest power source and gas remains the second-largest.

“This expansion brings major environmental benefits but also a new set of challenges that policy makers need to address quickly, he explained. “With higher variability in supplies, power systems will need to make flexibility the cornerstone of future electricity markets in order to keep the lights on.

“The issue is of growing urgency as countries around the world are quickly ramping up their share of solar PV and wind, and will require market reforms, grid investments, as well as improving demand-response technologies, such as smart meters and battery storage technologies.”