IEA (2020), World Energy Outlook 2020, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2020, License: CC BY 4.0
In the Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS), the global economy returns to its pre-Covid-19 level in 2021, but remains around 7% smaller over the longer term than projected in the WEO-2019. Total energy demand also returns to its pre-crisis level by early 2023, though trends and timing vary between countries. Energy use in advanced economies increases slightly after the crisis, but it does not return to pre-pandemic levels, whereas it rebounds in parts of Asia that had early success in bringing the pandemic under control. The negative impacts on growth and energy consumption linger longest in a number of lower income countries, where governments are less able to cushion the blows from the pandemic, and goals for energy access and clean cooking risk being delayed.
Global CO2 emissions do not surpass 2019 levels until 2027, even though demand returns to its pre-Covid level in early 2023. This reflects changes in the energy mix in which renewables prove resilient and flourish in the post-pandemic recovery while coal demand drops sharply in 2020, rebounds only slightly, and then declines steadily. In the STEPS, CO2 emissions increase to 36 Gt by 2030, which is lower than the corresponding scenario in the WEO-2019. However, the actions taken by governments in the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) put energy systems on a different trajectory, where CO2 emissions fall to under 27 Gt in 2030.
Growth in the use of renewable energy in the STEPS is primarily driven by utility-scale solar PV and wind projects in the power sector. Demand for renewables in end-use sectors is more reliant on explicit policy support, especially in a low fuel price environment, but rises steadily after a modest decline in 2020. Modern bioenergy posts 3% annual growth rate by the late 2020s.
Coal remains on average 8% lower through to 2030 than in pre-crisis levels due to a combination of expanding renewables, cheap natural gas and coal phase-out policies. In advanced economies, coal demand in 2030 is nearly 45% lower than in 2019. Demand for coal in the power and industry sectors continues to grow in India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, but its rate is slower than previously projected. In China – by far the world’s largest global coal consumer – coal use rebounds in the near term, peaks around 2025, before gradually declining.
Oil demand recovers from its historic drop in 2020, edging ahead of pre-crisis levels by 2023 in the STEPS. Nevertheless, compared to the WEO‐2019 STEPS projection demand is 2 mb/d lower in 2030 and plateaus thereafter. Vehicle turnover slows, with 9 million consumers deferring car replacements in 2020, but sales of electric vehicles remain resilient. While road transport accounted for 60% of oil demand growth in the last decade, petrochemicals account for 60% in the next decade, largely as a result of rising demand for plastics, notably for packaging materials. The dramatic changes in consumer behaviour in 2020 have a limited overall effect on oil demand in the long run, although aviation takes a while to recover to pre-crisis levels.
Natural gas recovers quickly from a drop in demand in 2020. Demand rebounds by almost 3% in 2021, then rises to 14% above 2019 levels by 2030, with growth concentrated in Asia. Amply supplied global gas markets and record low prices spur growth in price sensitive markets, although policy support remains critical to the expansion of gas infrastructure to meet demand. In established markets, easy gains from coal-to-gas switching are largely exhausted by the mid-2020s, after which the prospects for gas start to deteriorate as a result of environmental considerations, increasing competition from renewables, efficiency gains, growing electrification of end-use demand and improving prospects for alternative low-carbon gases, including hydrogen.
Energy efficiency slows as a result of lower fuel prices and the imperative to rebuild finances after the pandemic which makes companies and households shy away from efficiency upgrades and postpone purchases of new vehicles, equipment and appliances. This leads to a reduction of 10% in average annual efficiency improvements over the next decade compared with the WEO-2019 projections. The economic crisis also slows progress in advancing energy access and addressing energy poverty.