The World Energy Outlook 2010: the 450 Scenario and other estimates

On Tuesday the International Energy Agency presented its World Energy Outlook 2010. Apart from many other facts and estimates concerning energy trends the report shows two interesting scenarios: the New Policies Scenario (where current G20 agreements are implemented) and the 450 Scenario – where the world would actually try to reach the UN climate goal of halting climate change at no more than 2 degrees – or stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 ppm CO2 equivalents.

These are the requirements for the 450 Scenario:

  • Oil demand peaks just before 2020 at 88,000,000 barrels per day – and declines to 81 mln in 2035
  • Coal demand should also peak before 2020
  • Gas demand should peak before 2030
  • Renewables and nuclear double combined share to 38% in 2035


  • All fossil fuel subsidies should be abolished, fast
  • The freed 312,000,000,000 dollars per year should be spent on carbon extensive development, because:
  • Due to the lack of ambition in Copenhagen – and the consequential policy delays – the cost of reaching the 2 degree target has risen to 1 trillion dollars (these are of course all to be seen as economic investments as well, not as damage)

However, under the New Policies Scenario:

  • Between 2008 and 2035 world energy consumption will rise by 36 percent
  • Of that world energy rise also 36 percent can be attributed to increased consumption in China
  • Oil remains the leading fuel in the energy mix of 2035
  • Oil demand grows from 84,000,000 barrels per day in 2009 to 99,000,000 barrels per day in 2035
  • Oil price will accordingly rise from 60 to 113 dollars per barrel

According to IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka the energy market is uncertain, and depending on the evolvement of economic recovery over the next few years. ‘Current policies are insufficient to set us on the path to a truly sustainable energy system.’

Of currently realistic options, only in the New Policies Scenario (where IEA ‘assumes actual implementation’ of intended policies and measures) a tangible difference is to be expected, slowing down the increase of overall energy demand. Under that scenario energy demand would increase by 36 percent over the period between 2008 and 2035, on average 1.2 percent per year. Over the period between 1981 and 2008 it grew by 2 percent per year.

According to the new Outlook China overtook the US in 2009 as the world’s biggest energy consumer – somewhere in line with PBL estimates that state coal-intensive and cement-hungry China already passed the US in 2006 as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2. The IEA thinks China’s energy consumption will keep growing fast, contributing a 36 percent share of the 36 percent rise in overall energy demand.

“The message here is clear. We must act now to ensure that climate commitments are interpreted in the strongest way possible and that much stronger commitments are adopted and taken up after 2020, if not before. Otherwise, the 2°C goal could be out of reach for good”, Mr Tanaka said.

“Getting the prices right, by eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies, is the single most effective measure to cut energy demand in countries where they persist, while bringing other immediate economic benefits.”

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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