There is an extraordinary opportunity for the IEA to step up its leadership in the low-carbon energy transition

EiD was pleased to read the letter signed by investors/scientists and sent to Dr. Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Prior to this letter, in 2018 EiD published a post which compares the energy demand in the 2018 Efficient World Scenario included in the IEA’s flagship energy efficiency publication entitled “Energy  Efficiency 2018 – Analysis and Outlook to 2040” . EiD questioned, last October, how the world could be sustainable with less efficiency and more GHG emissions. This question was raised by the projected primary energy demand in the IEA 2018 Efficient World Scenario which was higher than the projected primary energy demand in the IEA 2017 Sustainable Development Scenario.

The signatories of the letter sent earlier this week to the agency goes one step further and calls the IEA to make it clear that:

  • The IEA New Policies Scenario (NPS) is a Business as Usual Scenario that charts a dangerous course to a world with between 2.7°C and 3°C of warming.
  • To develop an updated, fully transparent “Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) to reflect the full range of ambition of the Paris goals and make this the central reference of the World Energy Outlook. This scenario should include a reasonable probability (66%) of limiting warming to 1.5°C, a longer time horizon (beyond 2040); and precautionary approach to negative emissions technologies”.

From an energy mix perspective, it is worth noting that the IEA Sustainable Development Scenario projects 60% of the primary energy demand to be met by fossil fuels by 2040. As shown in the figure below, this is equivalent to the projections made in the Shell 2018 Sky Scenario. This may explain the criticism of the IEA’s climate models as being too fossil-fuel friendly.

Compared to the scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considered in the 1.5°C report and known as the “Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs)”, primary energy demand in the IEA Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) is three percentage points higher than in the IPCC Fossil-Fuel Development Scenario . The latter is defined as “a resource and energy intensive scenario in which economic growth and globalisation lead to widespread adoption of greenhouse-gas-intensive lifestyles, including high demand for transportation fuels and livestock products.” A such scenario cannot realistically be considered sustainable.

The only sustainable scenario on which the IEA should be working is the IPCC Low Energy Demand Scenario which limits the contribution of fossil fuels to the global primary energy demand to 36% by 2040. In this scenario, “social, business and technological innovations result in lower energy demand up to 2050 while living standards rise, especially in the global South. A downsized energy system enables rapid decarbonization of energy supply.This scenario is also the most realistic one about the contribution of CCS and BECCS to the decarbonization of the global energy system.

Unfortunately, Dr Birol’s reply to investors and scientists is for the time being rather disappointing regarding the changes he would implement in the IEA models! Let’s hope the IEA shows the leadership we are all looking for.


3 thoughts on “There is an extraordinary opportunity for the IEA to step up its leadership in the low-carbon energy transition

  1. And there was I fondly believing that it was the Paris-based IEA that had adopted the creed : “Efficiency First”!

    Obviously it must have been some other international energy agency entirely…

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