IEA and the energy crunch of 2017

The International Energy Association’s (IEA) World energy Outlook 2011 had only just hit the deck when it generated a political stoush, this time between Labor and The Greens.

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne told The Age the report showed that there was no longer time to use gas – which is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal – as a stepping stone to renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal. ”[The outlook] is basically saying to the investment community, ‘You are going to be gambling on how long gas has got as any kind of transitional fuel’.”

However, Mr Ferguson told The Age: ”The flexibility of gas-fired technology and the fact it is the cleanest fossil fuel make it an attractive investment option.

”In addition to gas, the message I am getting firsthand out of China and India … is that coal-fired power will increase and Australia is well placed to supply coal to fuel their growing economies.”

I picked that one up in Queensland Country Life, a Fairfax paper in which they reprint articles from The Age and the SMH.

But who’s right?

Not Christine Milne, I’m afraid. She has her eye on the IEA’s 450 Scenario, but even here we find this in the IEA Factsheet:

The share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix falls from 81% in 2009 to 62% in 2035. Global demand for both coal and oil peak before 2020, and then decline by 30% and 8% respectively by 2035, relative to their 2009 levels. By contrast, natural gas demand grows by 26%, though it plateaus by around 2030.

Ferguson has his eye on what the world is actually doing.

In the Current Policies Scenario, demand [for coal] carries on rising after 2020, increasing overall by nearly two-thirds to 2035. But in the 450 Scenario, coal demand peaks before 2020 and then falls heavily, declining one-third between 2009 and 2035.

Under the New Policies Scenario (see below) coal increases to the early 2020s and then remains broadly flat. Nevertheless the increase in 2035 over 2009 is a healthy one quarter.

I’ll outline some basic concepts first, then link to some sources, followed by some discussion. Continue reading IEA and the energy crunch of 2017