IEA under fire for ‘irresponsible’ and ‘misleading’ energy outlook

An energy watchdog has blasted the International Energy Agency (IEA) for "holding back the global energy transition", concluding that its annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) reports were published with misleading projections.

According to a new study from the Energy Watch Group and Lappeenranta University of Technology, the WEO reports – which are approved by OECD governments – have assumed no annual growth of solar photovoltaics and wind energy installations, leading to a “lack of willing investors” in the sector.  

Energy Watch Group president and former German MP Hans-Josef Fell said: “The IEA has been holding back the global energy transition for years. The false WEO predictions lead to high investments in fossil and nuclear sector, hinder global development of renewable energy and undermine the global fight against climate change.”

The WEO report has previously predicted that, by 2030, renewable energy is expected to provide only 14% of global electricity supply. However, the Energy Watch Group claims that, due to the average growth rates of the past 20 years, the projection would be closer to 60%.

Blurred lines

According to the study, the WEO 2010 report projections for solar PV capacity for 2015 were three times less than the 180GW that was achieved earlier this year – a figure the WEO didn’t believe achievable until 2024.

In regards to wind capacity, the study states that real life projections exceeded 260% of the WEO 2002 estimations and that the WEO projection for 2030 were already achieved in 2010.

The Energy Watch Group study claims that only conventional energy industry powerhouses such as BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil, forecasted renewables at such a low projection as the IEA did.

Professor of Solar Economy at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland and lead author of the study, Christian Breyer, said: “Despite the rapidly growing markets for solar PV and wind energy, the WEO dramatically undervalues their potential, which leads to fatal projections. From a scientific point of view, these structural errors are incomprehensible, from a social perspective they are irresponsible.”

EWG WEO Study 2015

Coupled with the underselling on renewable energy is the WEO’s overestimated projection for the potential of the coal industry. The trends that the WEO have outlined do not follow the latest trend of divestment of finance out of the coal industry, or the ongoing sustainability pledges in the build up to Paris.

Mixed messages

The last two WEO reports have preached a similar ethos that fossil fuels are on spent time and, by as soon as 2030, renewables could be the major energy source for the industry.

For the latest (2014) report, the IEA stated that global emissions from energy use could peak within the next five years if governments spend an extra $130bn on renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and ban new coal-fired power plants. The 2014 report also revealed that fossil fuel subsidies totalled $550bn in 2013 – more than four-times those to renewables – and are holding back investment in efficiency and renewable energy.

edie contacted the IEA for comment but did not receive a reply.

Matt Mace

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