The 2008 IEA WEO – Renewable Energy Highlights

I am working on an essay on the renewable energy portion of the recently released 2008 IEA World Energy Outlook. In Part I, I merely present some of the highlights of the report (actually the notes I jotted down as I read it). Part II will involve more commentary and analysis. Note that these are the IEA projections, and do not necessarily reflect my opinion.

Report Highlights

World energy demand is projected to grow from 11,730 Mtoe (million metric tons of oil equivalents) in 2006 to 17,010 Mtoe in 2030.

Fossil fuels, with oil as the primary source, will account for 80% of energy used in 2030.

China and India will be responsible for over half of the increased energy demand between now and 2030.

Global demand for oil (excluding biofuels) is forecast to rise from 85 million bpd in 2007 to 106 million bpd in 2030. This forecast was revised downward by 10 million bpd since last year’s forecast.

Solar PV has the highest investment cost of all commercially deployed renewable energy sources.

The share of nuclear power in the world energy mix falls from 6% in 2008 to 5% in 2030.

Renewable energy will displace natural gas to become the second largest producer of electrical energy by 2015, but will still lag far behind coal

Carbon dioxide emissions from coal combustion are forecast to rise from 11.7 billion metric tons in 2006 to 18.6 billion metric tons in 2030.

The ability of carbon sequestration to limit carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 is limited.

Biomass, geothermal, and solar thermal are forecast to grow from 6% of total global heating demand in 2006 to 7% in 2030.

Global output of wind power is forecast to grow eleven-fold by 2030, and become the 2nd largest source of renewable electricity (after hydropower) by 2010.

The share of biofuels in road transport fuels is forecast to grow from 1.5% in 2006 to 5% in 2030. Second generation biofuels (e.g., cellulosic ethanol) will make a very small contribution by 2030.

Shortages of water availability are a potential constraint for further expansion of biofuels.

Most biomass will still come from agriculture and forestry residues in 2030, but a growing portion will come from biomass farmed for biofuels.

A growing share of biomass is projected to fuel combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

Latin America and Africa are regions that can boost agricultural production by modernizing farming techniques.

Renewable-based electricity is forecast to grow dramatically. Most of the increase is expected to come from hydro and onshore wind power.

For OECD countries, the increase in renewable electricity is greater than the increase in electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear.

Costs for renewable power expected to continue to fall.

Potential for hydropower in non-OECD countries is still large. Most good sites in OECD countries have been utilized.

Global wind power expected to increase from 130 TWh in 2006 to more than 660 TWh in 2015 to 1,490 TWh in 2030.

Energy storage is rarely the cheapest way of dealing with variability, but several next generation storage technologies are under development. These include ultracapacitors, superconducting magnetic systems, and vanadium redox batteries.

Electrolysis to produce hydrogen, later used in fuel cells on demand is an option, but the overall efficiency is only 40%.

World demand for electricity forecast to rise from 15,665 TWh in 2006 to 28,141 TWh in 2030.

Electricity generation from PV and CSP in 2030 is forecast to be 245 TWh and 107 TWh, respectively.

Geothermal and wave technologies are forecast to produce 180 TWh and 14 TWh in 2030.

Over 860 TWh of electricity from biomass is forecast to be produced in 2030. Present conversion of biomass to electricity is at 20% conversion efficiency.

Biofuels in 2006 provided the equivalent of 0.6 million bpd, representing around 1.5% of global road transport fuel demand. The United States is the largest user of biofuels, and most of the recent growth has been in the U.S.

In 2030, total biofuel supply is expected to be 3.2 million bpd, amounting to only 5% of worldwide demand.

Reference scenario presumes that by 2030 the U.S. will only meet 40% of the biofuel mandate set in 2007.

In Brazil, biofuels are projected to account for 28% of road-transport fuel demand by 2030. The present amount supplied is equivalent to 13% of road-transport fuel demand.

Demand for biodiesel is expected to grow faster than demand for ethanol.

Second generation biofuels based on lignocellulosic biomass, converted via enzyme hydrolysis or biomass gasification (BTL) are expected to become commercially viable. However, the contribution will be minor, and not until after 2020.

Some countries are beginning to scale back their biofuels policies due to concerns about environmental sustainability.

Food prices are being driven by a combination of competition with biofuels, higher energy prices, poor harvests, and various agricultural policies.

The United States and Brazil both export soybean biodiesel to the EU.

Capital costs for cellulosic ethanol are “significantly more” than sugarcane or grain-based facilities. As a result, full commercialization hinges on “major cost reductions.”

There is considerable room for growth of solar water heating (water heating consumes 20% of all residential energy consumption).

China currently has 60% of the world’s installed solar water heating capacity.

Solar water and space heating projected to grow from 7.6 Mtoe in 2006 to 45 Mtoe in 2030.

Cumulative investment in renewable energy between 2007 and 2030 is projected to be $5.5 trillion, with 60% of that for electricity generation.

15 thoughts on “The 2008 IEA WEO – Renewable Energy Highlights”

  1. I think the IEA underestimates growth in biofuels, as they probably do not anticipate improving yields, which have been a feature of farming for centuries. I have been studying palm oil of late, in hopes of planting some acreage in Thailand.
    Several companies, nearly simultaneously, have announced breakthroughs, using selective breeding and genomes. Yields were rising handsomely anyway, but with the new gene-stuff, there is talk of yields quadrupling. Also, new hybrids are cold tolerant and drought tolerant, meaning the range of pam oil plantations has already been extended from 10 degrees from the equator to 20 degrees. The amount of palm oil a Brazil could grow is staggering. Africa too, except that it is Africa, and everything is always a mess.
    Nations such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia can be expected to completely stop using crude oil.
    The topic of palm oil is one small corner of the energy world (although palm yields are far far higher than any other crop), but it provides a hint to the type of blindspots a study such as this can have. The IEA says perhaps 3.2 mbd biofuels by 2030, but we may be pleasantly surprised. Almost surely, actually. If oil ever goes above $100 again, suely biofuel crop yields will rise.
    I am also surprised to see nukes make a shrinking portion of the energy pie in the IEA forecast. If global warming is such a big deal, what’s the big deal? Especially since mini-nukes seem to offer a nice option. Once the plant blueprints are approved, just keep making them.
    In short. the IEA report seems to think good news on the upside is not possible. And what about widescale adoption of PHEVs?
    It strikes me as a document of supremely limited imagination.

  2. “Installed capacity of PV and CSP in 2030 is forecast to be 245 TWh and 107 TWh, respectively”

    That probably meant annual production… assuming 25% CF for PV and 75% for CSP with storage, this translates into installed capacity of 112GW(p) for PV and 16GW(p). Extremely inefficient allocation split, but probably realistic… CSP are big projects that will be hard to finance for years to come as we suffer from the financial crisis hangover. PV is costlier but can be taken in small bites… Yet another negative consequence of financial mismanagement.

  3. That probably meant annual production…

    You are correct. I will fix that.

    This is another reason I wanted to post my notes; so if there are obvious errors they are spotted and corrected before I do any commentary/analysis.

    Thanks Krassen.


  4. A short note on my getting the heave-ho at the Oil Drum…..

    The allegation that RR reported here certainly came out of the blue. What the heck? It is most definitely false. The TOD leadership hasn’t responded to a request for explanation sent several days ago. So, I’m still in the dark. As you know, I’ve occasionally been a vocal critic of TOD. And I tend to press my case vigorously. It certainly wouldn’t be difficult for anybody at all to convincingly use my online identity for their own purposes. Unfortunately, one can’t defend against that.

    This little spat is trivial, however. What actually has relevance to us all is the topic I had raised at TOD precisely at the time of my expulsion.

    Simply put… a few months ago the statistical arm of the US Department of Energy (the EIA) released a scenario showing Saudi production peaking in 2005.

    Saudi Peak 2005

    World conventional oil production, is shown as peaking in 2010.

    The following graph shows how, under the hood, a sea change in outlook occurred at the EIA sometime after publication of the 2005 International Energy Outlook

    Reality dawns

    Note that this graph includes natural gas liquids in addition to conventional oil. The EIA doesn’t usually publish separate projections for them. Once they are stripped out, however, the peak in conventional oil is much more prominent.

    The unthinkable became thinkable. But so far, as far as I can tell, the peak oil community hasn’t noticed this or drawn the public’s attention to it.

    The possibility of an early peak in conventional oil is not suppressed at the EIA.

    On the contrary, at a peak oil seminar held at the EIA conference in April, an EIA official gave us a glimpse of their peak oil scenario as it stood at the time. They projected conventional oil to be only 60 mbpd in 2030.

    Presentation Link

    Now, of course, they haven’t made it their reference case yet. But it should be noted that they hinted at that possibility in their highlights to IEO 2008. In addition, it’s not as dire as many of the numbers thrown around by peak oilers.

    But the fact that a peak oil scenario was published in 2006 is a big deal. They are not as clueless a many seem to think. Their work, which is far more pessimistic than the recent IEA WEO, deserves consideration.

    For the numbers see tables G4 (for saudi all liquids) and G5 for total world conventional liquids.

  5. Datamunger:
    Sorry you are censored. Censorship speaks of small minds.
    But why the focus on “conventional” oil production? If unconventional sources grow, is not that important?
    And how about demand? What if demand wilts in the face of higher prices and alternatives (PHEVs)?
    It seems to me a lot can happen in 22 years.

  6. BTW, the Wall Street Journal today published a special report, “Shaping the Agenda.” The WSJ, for crikies sakes.
    And they advise PHEVs, infrastructure investments, energy efficiency, and a decarbonized power sector (in other words, renewables, and I guess maybe nukes).

    This could be the liberal manifesto of 10 years ago (minus or plus nukes, depending on what libs you talk to).

    This is the WSJ. The words “drill, bay, drill” are notably absent.

    It is worth reading, and it is astounding to note how much “left-wing” ideas are now mainstream.

    Sheesh, I found myself muttering that the WSJ piece was too leftie — I do advocate more drilling, and especially shale oil development.

  7. benny:

    I take your point about unconventional oil, demand and alternatives.

    Now let me take a crack at the EIA which I defended upthread. Jean Laharrere said recently that he and other ancestral peak oilers did not anticipate the EIA broadening their definition of oil.

    Why does it matter?

    Because it disguises the size and nature of the problem.

    If folks don’t keep it fixed in their minds that the vast bulk of our hydrocarbon liquids come from a particular fading resource now called conventional crude oil, its easy to be foolishly nonchalant in the face of substantial difficulties. RR, among others, has helped dispel those illusions.

    Not a doomer, BTW. Just a believer in facing facts.

  8. The IEA projects worldwide demand for oil will grow by less than 1% a year for the next 20+ years? What about all this new demand from India, China, and other growing 3rd-world nations that we hear about? The IEA must be factoring in some fierce demand destruction due to high prices.

  9. Datamunger-
    I guess it boils down to some old arguments, regarding innovation. How quickly can man adapt?
    China just announced a massive coal find. Can they set up CTL plants? Mandate PHEVs? The answer is yes. Will they, rapidly enough? Who knows?
    Can Southeast Asian nations, and Brazil, plant more palm oil plantations? Yes. Will they? Almost certainly. Brazil has about 170 times the land appropriate for palm oil as Malaysia, the world’s largest producer. Palm oil is competitive at $60 a barrel, but new hybrids will probably drop that figure.
    So, the obvious reality is we can produce energy, liquid and otherwise, from a multiple of sources, using existing technology (no science fiction), and we can switch our largest consumer of liquid fuels (motor vehicles) to batteries.
    So, the Peak Oiler’s position comes down to this: “Yes, but humans won’t be able to make the switch fast enough.”
    That is where the price signal comes in. Remarkably effective.
    Consider this: If the typical car increases its mpg by 10 percent, and people drive 10 percent fewer miles, you get a 20 percent reduction in demand.
    Two minor lifestyle changes, and we see a huge decline in demand.
    Take it further: If cars get 20 percent more mpg, and people cut back driving by 20 percent, you are talking a 35 percent reduction in demand.
    That is why we are having a glut of oil, and this glut will get worse for two years or more.
    This time around, demand may not fully recover for 10 years, or maybe even more.
    That’s the funny thing about the PO day of reckoning: It keeps getting postponed into the future, receding away from us as prices go up.
    I suspect one day we wil wake up (I hope I live so long) and we can say, “Oil is a fossil industry now. Who cares anymore.”
    Yes, a clever pun.

  10. benny:

    …lots of good points there, I think.

    >>If cars get 20 percent more mpg, and people cut back driving by 20 percent…….

    Agreed. It is indeed easier to cut back than most peak oilers think. But because of Jevons paradox, unfortunately we have to feel the economic pinch before total oil consumption declines.

    Another less optimistic point I would make is that innovation in bad times is more damaging to those on the losing end of it. Some respected researchers think tech innovation during the Depression made it worse medium term. Yes, GDP recovered by 1936, but unemployment was still horrible.

  11. Benny, sometimes you are masterful:
    “It strikes me as a document of supremely limited imagination.”

    Sometimes, not so much:
    “If cars get 20 percent more mpg, and people cut back driving by 20 percent, you are talking a 35 percent reduction in demand.”

    Provided, of course, that nothing else changes — which we know is the kind of assumption that is (a) very unlikely and (b) standard for the limited imagination of governmental & international agencies such as IEA.

    History over the last few decades in the US is that improvements in efficiency of internal combustion engines have been used to increase horsepower and/or to extend commuting distances, rather than to cut consumption. That is part of the "Jevons' Paradox" to which Datamunger refers.

    But the much more significant probable change to your hypothetical is the global aspect, given that oil trades in a global market. Even a small increase in ownership of motor vehicles among the 4 Billion-odd human beings who do not currently have one will swamp any conservation-related saving in OECD countries.

    In a world where too many human beings have to do without, the energy issue has to be addressed by increasing the supply side.

    I am very optimistic that advances in technology will ultimately give the human race adequate energy sources without oil. But I do not expect those technological advances will come from Obama's America. And it is a fairly safe bet that the real future of "alternate energy" lies in technologies which the bureaucrats of the IEA have not even considered.

  12. At some point we need to ban the production of automobiles that run on gas and diesel. Maybe a good time will be when PHEV’s are readily available. It’s just insane to hold ourselves hostage to the whims of people like Cahvez and Ahwannajihad. We’ve all flown over the cuckoo’s nest….and don’t even know it.

  13. Maury — sorry to burst your bubble, but Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles DO run on gas & diesel. That's the "Hybrid" part.

    Liquid hydrocarbon fuels are currently by far the best way to provide portable energy (such as transportation). What we need are additional pathways to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels at economic prices — e.g., options such as nuclear-fueled Coal To Liquid.

    We could also build much larger stocks of oil in western countries, actively used to stablize prices and help set the target level which new energy sources have to beat.

    What we don't need is more poorly-considered interference in the energy markets by idiot politicians, doing dumb things like banning internal combustion engines.


    Interesting take on the EIA data. I found it interesting that even under the high price scenario they are projecting shale oil to only account for 200kb/d. Any thoughts on why that projection is so low?

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