Four large-scale shifts in the global energy system set the scene for the World Energy Outlook 2017: the rapid deployment and falling costs of clean energy technologies, the growing electrification of energy, the shift to a more services-oriented economy and a cleaner energy mix in China, and the resilience of shale gas and tight oil in the United States.

In the New Policies Scenario, global energy needs rise more slowly than in the past but still expand by 30% between today and 2040. This is the equivalent of adding another China and India to today’s global demand.

A global economy growing at an average rate of 3.4% per year, a population that expands from 7.4 billion today to more than 9 billion in 2040, and a process of urbanisation that adds a city the size of Shanghai to the world’s urban population every four months are key forces that underpin our projections.

Compared with the past twenty-five years, the way that the world meets its growing energy needs changes dramatically in the New Policies Scenario, with the lead now taken by natural gas, by the rapid rise of renewables and by energy efficiency.

Improvements in efficiency play a huge role in taking the strain off the supply side: without them, the projected rise in final energy use would more than double. Renewable sources of energy meet 40% of the increase in primary demand and their explosive growth in the power sector marks the end of the boom years for coal.

Since 2000, coal-fired power generation capacity has grown by nearly 900 gigawatts (GW), but net additions from today to 2040 are only 400 GW and many of these are plants already under construction. In India, the share of coal in the power mix drops from three-quarters in 2016 to less than half in 2040. In the absence of large-scale carbon capture and storage, global coal consumption flatlines.

Oil demand continues to grow to 2040, albeit at a steadily decreasing pace. Natural gas use rises by 45% to 2040; with more limited room to expand in the power sector, industrial demand becomes the largest area for growth. The outlook for nuclear power has dimmed since last year’s Outlook, but China continues to lead a gradual rise in output, overtaking the United States by 2030 to become the largest producer of nuclear-based electricity.

Renewables capture two-thirds of global investment in power plants to 2040 as they become, for many countries, the least-cost source of new generation.

Rapid deployment of solar photovoltaics (PV), led by China and India, helps solar become the largest source of low-carbon capacity by 2040, by which time the share of all renewables in total power generation reaches 40%.

In the European Union, renewables account for 80% of new capacity and wind power becomes the leading source of electricity soon after 2030, due to strong growth both onshore and offshore. Policies continue to support renewable electricity worldwide, increasingly through competitive auctions rather than feed-in tariffs, and the transformation of the power sector is amplified by millions of households, communities and businesses investing directly in distributed solar PV.

Growth in renewables is not confined to the power sector. The direct use of renewables to provide heat and mobility worldwide also doubles from 9% to 16% over the same period.

Electricity is the rising force among worldwide end-uses of energy, making up 40% of the rise in final consumption to 2040 – the same share of growth that oil took for the last twenty-five years.

The Sustainable Development Scenario offers an integrated way to achieve a range of energy-related goals crucial for sustainable economic development: climate stabilisation, cleaner air and universal access to modern energy, while also reducing energy security risks.

In the Sustainable Development Scenario, low-carbon sources double their share in the energy mix to 40% in 2040, all avenues to improve efficiency are pursued, coal demand goes into an immediate decline and oil consumption peaks soon thereafter. Power generation is all but decarbonised, relying by 2040 on generation from renewables (over 60%), nuclear power (15%) as well as a contribution from carbon capture and storage (6%) – a technology that plays an equally significant role in cutting emissions from the industry sector. Electric cars move into the mainstream quickly, but decarbonising the transport sector also requires much more stringent efficiency measures across the board, notably for road freight.

The 2030 targets for renewables and efficiency that are defined in the Sustainable Development agenda are met or exceeded in this scenario; renewables and efficiency are the key mechanisms to drive forward the low-carbon transition and reduce pollutant emissions. Considering the inter-linkages between them and aligning policy and market frameworks –  notably in the residential sector – is essential to ensure cost-efficient outcomes.