IEA’s 2017 World Energy Outlook: Renewables to help meet global rise in demand

Four key shifts identified by the International Energy Agency in its World Energy Outlook 2017 could have significant impacts around the globe.

According to the annual study, released today by IEA, primary drivers in the international market can be synthesized as:

  • The rapid deployment and falling costs of renewable energy technologies;
  • The growing electrification of energy;
  • The shift to a clean energy-based China; and
  • The resilience of shale gas and oil in the United States.

“Solar is forging ahead in global power markets as it becomes the cheapest source of electricity generation in many places, including China and India,” said IEA executive director Dr. Faith Birol. “Electric vehicles are in the fast lane as a result of government support and declining battery costs, but it is far too early to write the obituary for of oil, as growth for trucks, petrochemicals, shipping and aviation keep pushing demand higher.”

A new leader?
While the U.S. under President Donald Trump remains defiant as the only country to refuse terms of the Paris Climate Agreement, China has emerged as a new global leader in renewable growth.

Though Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an “energy revolution” that would “fight against pollution”, the Asian giant has several avenues it might take to meet a per-capita energy consumption rate that will, according to the IEA, exceed that of the European Union by 2040.

Hydropower has already played a significant role in both helping meet China’s booming need and efforts to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, with hydroelectric sources accounting for just 79 GW of installed capacity in 2000. That figure leapt to 332 GW last year and is expected to increase to 493 GW by 2040.

Still, the bulk of China’s renewable growth is expected to be in solar and wind, with those sectors projected by IEA to account for up to a third of the world’s new cumulative capacity over the next two decades.

Globally green
Not only will renewables account for about two-thirds of all investments in power plants through 2040, they will also become the least-cost source of new generation for many countries.

In India and China, renewables — most notably solar — are expected to account for 40% of all power generation by 2040, while wind is expected soar in Europe. Per IEA, renewables will account for 80% of all new capacity, with wind becoming the leading source of all power after 2030, due in large part to aggressive feed-in tariff and direct investment schemes.

For further reading
IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2017 is available for purchase via the organization’s website here.


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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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