• October 3, 2019

    EIA Releases its International Forecast

    Stephen Eule


The Energy Information Administration (EIA) just released its International Energy Outlook (IEO) for 2019. This new forecast suggests that we can expect to see some pretty dramatic changes in energy supply demand for over the next 30 years.

The IEO2019 provides a look at global trends in energy supply and demand out to 2050.
But before we begin, we should note, as EIA helpfully informs us, that “energy market projections are uncertain because the events that shape future developments in technology, demographic changes, economic trends, and resource availability that drive energy 
use are fluid.” So, with that caveat out of the way, let’s take a look at some of IEO2019’s highlights:

  • Global Demand Growth: World primary energy demand is expected to rise by about 47%, or 1.2% a year, between 2018 and 2050. Of the 291 quadrillion Btu increase in global demand, 87% will come in non-Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, whose energy demand is forecast to jump 68% compared to just 15% for OCED countries (and 6% for the United States). India, Southeast Asia, and Africa show the fastest rates of growth (see the nearby chart).
  • Electricity Grows Fastest: When considering “delivered energy”—the amount of energy that is consumed by the end user as opposed to say, a power generator—the fastest source of energy demand growth is electricity, both absolutely (63 quads, or 36% of the total) and in annual rate of growth (1.8% a year). More than half of the projected growth in electricity occurs in two countries—China and India—while relatively large increases also are expected in other parts of Asia and Africa. All demand sectors show increases in electricity demand, with residential use climbing fastest, a reflection of increased prosperity in many developing countries, greater access to electricity, and population growth. Despite the rapid growth in the residential sector, the industrial sector still will account for 51% of demand in 2050, a bit less than today.
  • Hydrocarbon Fuels Continue to Dominate, But Renewables Experience Rapid Growth: Combined “liquids”—which is mostly petroleum—natural gas, and coal use is forecast to grow 25% by 2050, with natural gas leading the way (up 44%) followed by petroleum (22%) and coal (12%). The share of these fuels, however, declines about 80% in 2018 to 68% in 2050, with most of that due to the lower share from coal. EIA expects demand for renewable energy (hydropower, wind, solar, biofuels, etc.) will grow 166%, with these technologies accounting for 28% of total demand in 2050 compared to 15% in 2018. Hydroelectric power will lose share of renewable generation to solar and wind, which grow at 8.4% and 4.9% annual rates respectively. By 2050, the share of renewable generation from solar is forecast to jump from 21% to 38% and wind from 13% to 31%. While developed countries see large increases, China and India account for the lion’s share of global growth in these two technologies.
  • The Price of Crude Oil Rises to $100 But Greater Production Keeps the Forecast Lower than in Previous Years: From about $71 per barrel in 2018 (in real 2018 dollars), the price of crude should hover around $100 per barrel in 2050. This is a big improvement since 2016, when EIA was forecasting a price of around $150 per barrel by 2040. Greater U.S. production, which EIA pegs at an astonishing 14 to 15 million barrels per day from 2025 to 2050. Globally, crude oil output should rise from 83 to 107 million barrels per day, a brisk 0.8% per year, a faster rate than the demand for liquid fuels, another factor keeping the lid on a large price increase.
  • Energy Efficiency Continues to Improve: Energy intensity is measured as the amount of energy used to produce a unit of GDP. It can be affected by trends in energy efficiency and by shifts in economic activities (for example, away from heavy industry and towards services). Globally, EIA sees energy intensity improving at a rate of 1.7% a year, not appreciably different from recent projections. As advanced economies already have made very large improvements in energy intensity, so it is not surprising that EIA forecasts developing countries making the largest strides (about 2% per year).
  • Carbon Dioxide Emissions Grow: EIA forecasts carbon dioxide emissions from energy rising 22% between now and 2050, from 35.3 to 43.1 gigatons of CO2. Developed countries are expected to reduce emissions by about 0.65 gigatons (of which the United States will account for 0.23 gigatons)  while developing countries increase their emissions by 8.4 gigatons. Emissions from China, the world’s largest emitter at more than 10 gigatons CO2 a year, are expected to remain essentially flat. About 85% of that 8.4-gigaton increase will come from India, other Asian developing countries, and Africa. Carbon intensity—how much carbon is released per unit of GDP—improves at a fairly rapid rate of 3.8% in developing countries and 1.5% in developed countries. These improvements help reduce the rate of emissions growth.