IEA saw massive shift in energy landscape in past two years

Senior Global Correspondent
A bar chart showing renewable energy in green and fossil fuels in dark grey.
Source: International Energy Agency • Figures for 2023 are estimates. Clean energy includes renewable energy sources, nuclear power, fossil fuels with carbon capture, hydrogen and ammonia, energy efficiency improvements, end-use electrification, grids and storage.

The recent global energy crisis may “usher in the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era,” the International Energy Agency said in its annual report on the outlook for global energy released on Tuesday.   

The events of the past two years, including a rebound from the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have spurred an expansion of clean energy technologies and could push coal, oil and even natural gas into decline by the end of the decade.  

The agency, which is backed by the major industrialized countries that consume much of the world’s energy, said existing national policies will shave the share of fossil fuels in the global energy supply to 73% by 2030 from the 80% it has hovered at for decades. 

The forecast underscored the acceleration of clean energy technologies over the past two years, as evidenced by the rapid shift in investments in the above chart, which has compelled IEA to drastically change its forecasts.  

In 2021, for example, the IEA said existing policies in the United States would have led electric vehicles to make up 12% of new car sales in 2030. After the Biden administration introduced hefty subsidies for electric vehicles in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, the IEA now forecasts fully half of vehicle registrations will be electric by 2030 (if the act’s provisions remain in place).  

Similarly, in the European Union, price spikes in natural gas markets have bolstered the installation of highly efficient heat pumps in buildings. The EU is now on track to install two thirds of the heat pumps it needs to reach the bloc’s ambitious 2030 decarbonization goals. Two years ago, the EU was on track to install just one third of the pumps needed by the end of the decade, the agency said.  

Even in China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter and number one coal consumer, solar and offshore wind power installations are proceeding at triple the pace they were in the IEA’s estimates two years ago.  

Still, major challenges remain, according to the agency, particularly when it comes to building out transmission networks to handle the huge expected rise in electricity demand. Obtaining sufficient supplies of minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt critical for making batteries will also require stepped up investment and new policies, the IEA said.