The energy mix: the view on the energy transition from Washington and a new recovery tracker from the IEA

Jay Owen SRI/ESG News, Greentech

Plus, electricity demand growing faster than renewables can keep up, and the need for resilient power systems as climate threats grow


Executive Director meets with key leaders in Washington

During a weeklong visit to Washington, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol met with a wide range of senior figures to discuss the opportunities and challenges of global clean energy transitions – and to prepare for a series of critical high-level meetings on climate and energy in the coming months, including the COP26 in November and the IEA Ministerial Meeting early next year.

The visit highlighted the increased importance of energy and climate on the policy agenda in the United States, the US government’s renewed determination to show international leadership on these crucial interlinked issues, and the central role that the IEA can play in providing a global platform for international collaboration.

Among the dozens of engagements with senior energy and climate leaders in the Administration of President Joe Biden and in Congress, Dr Birol met with US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. These meetings both centred on how clean energy transitions could be a major driver of jobs and economic prosperity – with a clear sense of the urgency of shifting from ambition to implementation ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

Dr Birol also met with a variety of other congressional leaders, including Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, as well as World Bank President David Malpass, and various ambassadors including from India and Iraq.

Read more about the Executive Director’s visit to Washington here.


New Sustainable Recovery Tracker to measure clean energy impact of Covid-19 response

Tomorrow, we are launching our new Sustainable Recovery Tracker that will monitor the economic recovery measures governments have introduced in response to the Covid-19 crisis in order to measure how much additional clean energy investment these measures are mobilising. The Tracker will also estimate the effect of these investments on global emissions trends.

The Tracker is one of our key contributions to the Italian Presidency of the G20, and our Executive Director will be participating in the G20 Ministerial on Environment, Climate and Energy in Naples later this week. Visit our website tomorrow to explore the key findings from the Tracker.

Global electricity demand is growing faster than renewables can keep up

Renewables are expanding quickly but not fast enough to satisfy a strong rebound in global electricity demand this year. The result is a sharp rise in the use of coal-burning power plants that risks pushing carbon emissions from the electricity sector to record levels.

Global electricity demand is set to grow by close to 5% this year, after dipping 1% in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to our latest semi-annual Electricity Market Report.  But even though generation from renewables like hydropower, wind and solar is due to grow 8% in 2021 and by more than 6% in 2022, it will only be able to meet about half the projected increase in global electricity demand. The rest will be met mostly by thermal plans that burn fossil fuels, especially coal.

In the pathway set out in IEA’s recent Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050, nearly three-quarters of global emissions reductions between 2020 and 2025 take place in the electricity sector. Achieving a transition of that speed and scale will require major policy changes, including a massive surge in clean energy investment and deployment.

Read the press release and the full report.

The world’s electricity systems need to be ready to counter growing climate threats

Summer has just started in the northern hemisphere, and we are already seeing major strains on electricity systems from Iraq to North America as they struggle to cope with heat waves and low rainfall. Extreme weather puts extra pressure on power grids, raises demand for electricity and reduces the efficiency of traditional power plants, while droughts can affect hydropower, the world’s largest source of clean energy.

In this commentary, Dr Birol lays out seven key areas for action to make electricity systems as resilient as possible in the face of climate risks. They include massive and much needed investments in our grids, more flexible power generation, more efficient air conditioners and refrigerators, new technologies to help us better manage extreme weather, and more international cooperation.

Read the commentary.

The transition to clean energy must focus on jobs and fairness

The pathway to net-zero emissions by mid-century is a huge economic opportunity that will create millions of new jobs in the technologies of the future. But the new positions won’t necessarily be in the same places or require the same skills as the jobs that are likely to be lost. That’s a challenge that has to be confronted to ensure the transition to a low-carbon future benefits all citizens.

In this commentary, Laura Cozzi, our Chief Energy Modeller, and Brian Motherway, our Head of Energy Efficiency, discuss the steps governments and policy makers can take to ensure that the move to clean energy is fair and equitable. While training programmes are obviously necessarily – both to help dislocated workers find new employment, and to enable the industries of the future to find qualified employees – a key and often overlooked aspect is proper data gathering and analysis to help anticipate where jobs may be lost and where new skills may be needed. There also needs to be dialogue across all layers of government and civil society.

In line with these efforts, we recently held a livestreamed virtual meeting with labour representatives from around the world under the auspices of the Global Commission on People-Centred Clean Energy Transitions. And you can watch a livestreamed webinar tomorrow on Behavioural Insights for Inclusive Energy Policy, which will include a keynote address by Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van Der Straeten.

Read the new commentary, watch back the recent event on the voice of labour in energy transitions, and tune in to tomorrow’s live webinar on behavioural insights.

IEA and UAE agree to work together on climate goals

The IEA Executive Director met earlier this month with Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the United Arab Emirates’ Special Envoy for Climate Change to discuss the UAE’s efforts to advance clean energy transitions.

At the virtual meeting on 6 July, they agreed to work together on climate goals as the UAE seeks to step up efforts to shift its economy away from a heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Sultan Al Jaber is also the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

The meeting is the latest example of IEA engagement on clean energy transitions with oil and gas producing economies in the Middle East and North Africa region. In September, the Oman and the IEA will co-host a Ministerial Dialogue for the region to explore ways to leverage energy transitions to ensure broader economic resilience.

Read more about the event.

And in other news…

In early July, our Executive Director met with Larry Fink, the Chairman and CEO of Blackrock, the world’s biggest asset manager, to discuss international energy, climate and investment issues. Dr Birol and Mr Fink, who was in Paris as part of a series of high-level meetings across Europe, discussed our recent Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 and agreed on the need to pay close attention to the demand side of energy transitions – and the importance of establishing mechanisms to better facilitate clean energy investment in emerging and developing economies.

Also have a look at our new energy policy review of Portugal, where we examine at the government’s ambitious plans for achieving its carbon neutrality goals. A new article from some of our energy data experts looks at concerns over a possible slowdown in clean energy innovation and entrepreneurship. And the European Commission has launched the second phase of its EU4Energy programme that aims to promote energy transitions in Eastern Europe and for which the IEA is a key partner.




Our new Electricity Market Report underlines the scale of the challenge of decarbonising the power sector.

Renewables are set for strong growth in 2021 & 2022, but they only cover about half the forecast rise in demand, with fossil fuels filling most of the gap.

Read more.