On October 13, 2020 the International Energy Agency published its flagship the World Energy Outlook 2020 (WEO-2020), focused on the next 10 years of energy system development with close attention to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the energy sector, and the near-term actions that could accelerate clean energy transitions. The strategic insights from the WEO-2020 are based on detailed modelling of different potential pathways out of the crisis, covering all regions, their energy systems, priority fuel and energy policy.

According to the WEO-2020, the global energy demand is set to drop by 5% in 2020, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7%, and energy investment by 18%. The estimated falls of 8% in oil demand and 7% in coal and around 3% in natural gas, while global electricity demand looks set to be down by a relatively modest 2% for the year and renewable energy sources remain the most resilient energy sources to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

IEA experts analyzed the pathways out of the crisis using 4 potential scenarios:

1. The Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS), in which Covid-19 is gradually brought under control in 2021 and the global economy returns to pre-crisis levels the same year. This scenario reflects all of today’s announced policy intentions and targets, insofar as they are backed up by detailed measures for their realisation. In this scenario, global GDP also returns to pre-crisis levels in 2021, and global energy demand in early 2023 (but outcomes vary sharply by fuel). Renewables meet 90% of the strong growth in global electricity demand over the next two decades, led by continued high levels of solar PV deployment, but global coal use never gets back to previous levels (by 2040, coal’s share in global energy demand dips below 20% for the first time in modern energy history).

Electricity demand growth in India outpaces other regions to 2030, after which growth is most pronounced in Southeast Asia and Africa. China sees the largest absolute increase in demand, accounting for over 40% of the global growth to 2030. Electricity demand growth globally outpaces all other fuels. Electricity meets 21% of global final energy consumption by 2030. A handful of countries including Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia and Rwanda are on track to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, but in the STEPS – 660 million people still lack access in 2030 – including 33% of all people in Africa.

Renewable sources of electricity are set for strong growth, rising by two-thirds from 2020 to 2030 in the STEPS. By 2030, hydro, wind, solar PV, bioenergy, geothermal power provide nearly 40% of electricity supply. China leads the way, expanding electricity from renewables by almost 1 500 TWh to 2030, which is equivalent to all the electricity generated in France, Germany and Italy in 2019.

Hydropower remains the largest renewable source, but solar is the main source of growth, followed by onshore and offshore wind. “If governments and investors step up their clean energy efforts in line with our Sustainable Development Scenario, the growth of both solar and wind would be even more spectacular – and hugely encouraging for overcoming the world’s climate challenge,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. According to  Dr. Fatih Birol, the strong growth of renewables needs to be paired with robust investment in electricity grids.

2. The Delayed Recovery Scenario (DRS) is designed with the same policy assumptions as in the STEPS, but a prolonged pandemic causes lasting damage to economic prospects. Global GDP does not recover to pre-crisis levels until 2023, and global energy demand only returns in 2025. Oil demand flattens out below the 100 mb/d mark, some 4 mb/d below the level in the STEPS. But the DRS, like the STEPS, does not yet show oil demand reaching a clear peak.

3. In the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), a surge in clean energy policies and investment puts the energy system on track to achieve sustainable energy objectives in full, including the Paris Agreement, energy access and air quality goals. The assumptions on public health and the economy are the same as in the STEPS. The  2019 is the definitive peak year for global CO2 emissions. In the SDS, CO2 emissions are nearly 10 Gt lower than in the STEPS by 2030.

4. The new Net Zero Emissions by 2050 case (NZE2050) extends the SDS analysis. A rising number of countries and companies are targeting net-zero emissions, typically by midcentury. The NZE2050 includes the first detailed IEA modelling of what would be needed in the next ten years to put global CO2 emissions on track for net zero by 2050. Bringing about a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 requires, for example, that renewables provide nearly 75% of global electricity generation in 2030 and that more than 50% of passenger cars sold worldwide in 2030 are electric, up from 2.5% in 2019.