The IEA's Electricity Outlook and Solar Solution

Written By Luke Burgess

Updated April 19, 2020

For over a century, there’s been one sector that has completely dominated the energy market: electricity.

And it looks set to dominate for another hundred years.

The global energy system is under transition. Finite and polluting energy resources are being replaced with new sources and solutions.

But the demand for the electricity those new sources produce is ever-growing.


According to a new report by the International Energy Agency, electricity will remain the fastest-growing sector of the energy market for decades.

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2019 report forecasts electricity growing at more than double the pace of overall energy demand.

That growth is led by population increases, economic development, and global urbanization — most notably from China and other Asian nations.

Key Statistics

• According to UN estimates, world population is projected to reach over 9 billion people by 2040, up from about 7.7 billion today.

• PricewaterhouseCoopers projects the world economy to grow at an average of over 3% per year, with 50 developing countries doubling in size by 2037 and nearly tripling by 2050.

• According to the UN, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, up from about 55% today.

The IEA said electricity is one of the few energy sources that will see growing consumption in 2040, mainly due to electric vehicles.

The agency writes, “The share of electricity in final consumption, less than half that of oil today, overtakes oil by 2040.”

The agency’s scenarios show wind and solar PV playing a major part in electricity generation over the next several years.

The new report forecasts wind and solar PV contributing to over half of the electricity generation demand through 2040.

It notes that policymakers and regulators will have to keep up with technological changes and the rising need for flexible power systems.

IEA scenarios show solar PV becoming the largest component of global installed capacity, saying, “The expansion of generation from wind and solar PV helps renewables overtake coal in the power generation mix in the mid-2020s.”

The agency says that by 2040, low-carbon sources will provide more than half of total electricity generation.

Much of the IEA’s new report is focused on electricity. The executive summary even begins by talking about it, saying:

The energy world is marked by a series of deep disparities. The gap between the promise of energy for all and the fact that almost one billion people still do not have access to electricity.

The report highlights electricity issues in Africa, noting population growth rates could lead to more than half a billion people in Africa without electricity by 2040. The IEA says this is “much higher than the growth seen in China’s urban population between 1990 and 2010, a period in which China’s production of materials such as steel and cement sky-rocketed.”

Africa’s electricity problems stem from poor infrastructure and general issues such as local corruption. The IEA writes, “Our Africa analysis underlines that the planning, design and governance of the world’s growing cities, the industrial materials that are used in their construction, and the transport options that are available to their inhabitants are critical issues for the global outlook.”

The IEA stresses that the rise in Africa’s oil consumption to 2040 is larger than China’s, while the continent also sees a major expansion in natural gas use.

The report says Africa has the richest solar resources in the world but has only around 5 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV, less than 1% of the global total. The agency says solar PV would provide the cheapest source of electricity for many of the 600 million people across Africa without electricity access today.

Electricity is not only the magic that comes out of your walls; it’s also the magic that can spark your investment portfolio.

Until next time,
Luke Burgess Signature
Luke Burgess

As an editor at Energy and Capital, Luke’s analysis and market research reach hundreds of thousands of investors every day. Luke is also a contributing editor of Angel Publishing’s Bull and Bust Report newsletter. There, he helps investors in leveraging the future supply-demand imbalance that he believes could be key to a cyclical upswing in the hard asset markets. For more on Luke, go to his editor’s page.

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