"The World Energy Outlook forecasts a rapid energy transition between now and 2050 – effectively, within a generation. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact a tragic toll on lives and livelihoods and will greatly impact global energy use in the near term. The pandemic has also brought forward peak emissions and will lead to an earlier plateauing of oil use.
Delayed growth and behavioural changes see global energy demand reduce by 8% in 2020. It will pick up in 2021, but then fluctuates annually some 6% - 8% below our pre-pandemic forecast to 2050. With the drop-off in demand, oil and coal are most severely impacted, followed by gas, with renewables least affected.
Global energy demand will only see a modest growth post COVID-19, owing to continuous improvements in energy intensity. Crude oil use likely peaked in 2019, and natural gas will peak in 2035.
Lower emissions in 2020 came at the expense of a pandemic which is exacting a tragic toll on lives and livelihoods. We saw a small rebound in global emissions as economies recover, but peak emissions will remain behind us. In 2030, emissions are forecast to be 10% lower than the pre-pandemic forecast, and in 2050, energy-related emissions will be at 17 Gt CO2, about half of the present level. But that is not enough: if we want to be on track towards 1.5°C, we need to repeat this year's 8% emission reduction every year through to 2050.
The dominance of oil in the energy mix will give way to gas in the coming years. Without COVID-19 it is estimated that oil would have reached a supply plateau in the early 2020s. However, the pandemic will lead to a 13% reduction in global crude oil demand in 2020 and although demand will recover it will not surpass the 2019 level. Oil demand has therefore already peaked. Mainly due to the electrification of transport, oil will decline steadily to reach half current consumption levels by 2050.
Gas use on the other hand will continue to expand, surpassing oil as the largest energy source by 2026, and will then peak in 2035, thereafter tapering off gently to 2050. The use of gas in power generation will greatly expand, underlining its role as a 'bridge' fuel. The oil and gas industry will however, be under mounting pressure to decarbonise natural (but also fossil fuel derived, and thus sequestered carbon-releasing) gas, which will start to scale from the mid-2030s, reaching 13% of natural gas supply by mid-century."
Above: Photo by Kervin Edward Lara on Pexels