Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook 2014. The Outlook is globally recognised as a reliable analysis of energy and environmental development and receives attention from policy makers, businesses and the public.

This year‘s conclusion is short but precise: “The global energy system is in danger of falling short of the hopes and expectations placed upon it. […] Advances in technology and efficiency give some reasons for optimism, but sustained political efforts will be essential to change energy trends for the better.”

The major findings and predictions should be a reminder for everyone working on energy policy in the European Union not to forget the global perspective. If you did not have time to read the whole analysis, please find below a selection of the key findings, cited from the official executive summary:

  • Global energy demand is set to grow by 37% by 2040 in our central scenario, but the development path for a growing world population and economy is less energy-intensive than it used to be.
  • A landmark will be reached in the early 2030s, when China becomes the largest oil-consuming country, crossing paths with the United States.
  • By 2040, the world’s energy supply mix divides into four almost equal parts: oil, gas, coal and low-carbon sources.
  • Regional oil demand trends are quite distinct: for each barrel of oil no longer used in OECD countries, two barrels more are used in the non-OECD.
  • Asian countries are set to import two out of every three barrels of crude traded internationally by 2040.
  • Demand for natural gas grows by more than half, the fastest rate among the fossil fuels.
  • Chinese coal demand plateaus at just over 50% of global consumption, before falling back after 2030.
  • India overtakes the United States as the world’s second-biggest coal consumer before 2020, and soon after surpasses China as the largest importer.
  • Fossil fuel subsidies totalled US$550 billion in 2013 – more than four times those available to renewable energy – and are holding back investment in efficiency and renewables.
  • Electricity is the fastest-growing final form of energy, yet the power sector contributes more than any other to the reduction in the share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix.
  • Renewable energy technologies, a critical element of the low-carbon pillar of global energy supply, are rapidly gaining ground, helped by global subsidies amounting to US$120 billion in 2013.
  • As the share of wind and solar PV in the world’s power mix quadruples, their integration both from a technical and market perspective becomes more challenging, with wind reaching 20% of total electricity generation in the European Union and solar PV accounting for 37% of summer peak demand in Japan.
  • Global nuclear power capacity increases by almost 60% in our central scenario, from 392 GW in 2013 to over 620 GW in 2040. However, its share of global electricity generation, which peaked almost two decades ago, rises by just one percentage point to 12%.
  • Nuclear power is one of the few options available at scale to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while providing or displacing other forms of baseload generation. It has avoided the release of an estimated 56 gigatonnes of CO2 since 1971, or almost two years of total global emissions at current rates.
  • Almost 200 reactors (of the 434 operational at the end of 2013) are retired in the period to 2040, with the vast majority in Europe, the United States, Russia and Japan; the challenge to replace the shortfall in generation is especially acute in Europe.
  • Those who have no access to modern energy suffer from the most extreme form of energy insecurity. An estimated 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity.