International Energy Agency accused

IEA forecasts play down role of renewables

Joachim Wille, 9 Oct 15
Governments, industry and the public have been led to believe that coal, oil and gas will remain indispensable for many years to come because of inaccurate forecasts by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Energy Watch Group (EWG) has warned. This has prevented investment from being channelled into renewables quickly enough, the group claims. The international network of scientists and parliamentarians commissioned a review to examine the accuracy of the forecasts published in the IEA’s yearly “World Energy Outlook” from 1994 to 2014.

The conclusion: although wind and PV have grown exponentially in recent decades, the IEA continues to base its predictions on linear growth, i.e. a constant amount of new capacity added each year. As a result, the forecasts predict that renewables will account for just 14 percent of the global energy supply in 2030, whereas the actual figure is likely to be much closer to 60 percent based on growth rates from the last 20 years, the critics argue.

President of the EWG Hans-Josef Fell accuses the IEA of “holding back the global energy transition for years”, adding that IEA forecasts play down role of renewables the misleading predictions continue to prompt high investments in coal, oil, gas and nuclear, hindering global development of renewable energy and undermining the global fight against climate change. When contacted, the IEA declined to comment on the accusations.

The IEA was founded in 1974 in the wake of the first oil crisis to advise the OECD countries on energy issues. For a long time, it acted primarily as a lobby group devoted to ensuring a regular supply of oil, gas and coal. More recently, however, the IEA has acknowledged the threat of climate change, advocating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, increased energy efficiency and a phase-out of subsidies for fossil energy sources.

While conceding that the IEA’s executive director and former chief economist Fatih Birol often makes “accurate statements” and “properly portrays the urgency of rising CO2 emissions,” Fell maintains that the official reports persist in committing the same systematic errors again and again. These reports are crucial, he says, as they “form the basis for decision-making in government and industry.”