Solar Power Rapidly Expands, But So Does Oil Use, in New World Energy Outlook

Solar power will surge globally in the coming decades, but oil demand will also continue to grow, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.

The IEA’s 2017 World Energy Outlook finds that global energy markets will be shaped by four major trends over the next three decades: The United States will become the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas; renewable energy, led by a major expansion of solar power in China and India, will experience rapid growth; the share of electricity — and electric vehicles — in the energy mix will expand; and China’s continuing economic expansion will increasingly be fueled by clean energy.

“Solar is forging ahead in global power markets as it becomes the cheapest source of electricity generation in many places,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. “Electric vehicles are in the fast lane as a result of government support and declining battery costs, but it is far too early to write the obituary of oil as growth for trucks, aviation, petrochemicals, shipping, and aviation keep pushing demand higher.”

The report says that global energy demand is expected to grow 30 percent by 2040 and that demand for oil is not expected to peak until 2040. That means that, despite the rapid deployment of wind and solar power worldwide, global CO2 emissions will continue to rise until 2040, “far from enough to avoid the severe impacts of climate change,” the IEA said.

The World Energy Outlook says that China, in an effort to reduce severe air pollution in major cities, will lead in the development and deployment of increasingly efficient solar photovoltaic panels. The IEA also predicts that wind power will become the leading source of electricity generation in the European Union shortly after 2030.