IEO2023: Global energy consumption to outpace efficiency gains in most cases by 2050

Oct. 11, 2023
Global energy-related CO2 emissions will rise by 2050 in multiple scenarios outlined in the US EIA's outlook as global population growth and higher living standards push growth in energy consumption beyond advances in energy efficiency.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions will rise by 2050 in multiple scenarios outlined in the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) International Energy Outlook 2023 (IEO2023) as global population growth and higher living standards push growth in energy consumption beyond advances in energy efficiency.

The EIA released IEO2023 on Oct. 11, 2023.

In all IEO2023 cases, EIA expects global primary energy consumption to increase through 2050.

“Our expectations of global population growth, increased regional manufacturing, and higher living standards indicate that global energy consumption will grow faster than advances in energy efficiency. Non-fossil fuel-based resources, including nuclear and renewables, produce more energy through 2050, but in most of the IEO2023 cases we examined, that growth is not sufficient to reduce global energy-related CO2 emissions under current laws and regulations,” EIA said.

The EIA's report explores long-term world energy trends, providing an outlook for energy markets through 2050. EIA employs various scenarios, referred to as "cases," to gauge how different assumptions regarding technological progress and economic development impact energy trends.

The IEO2023 Reference case—which serves as a baseline, or benchmark—and six side cases consider only the laws and regulations adopted through March 2023. The six side cases in IEO2023 explore differing assumptions of economic growth, crude oil prices, and technology costs.

Takeaways from IEO2023

  • Increasing population and income offset the effects of declining energy and carbon intensity on emissions.
  • In all IEO2023 cases, global energy consumption increases, with the fastest growth in the residential and industrial sectors. Global consumption of liquid fuels increases through 2050, and industrial applications, such as chemical production, account for the fastest growth in liquid fuels consumption. Economic growth and increased disposable income increase demand for transportation in all IEO2023 cases. Although electric vehicles (EVs) gain a larger share of the global transportation fleet, reducing transportation sector petroleum consumption, the industrial sector offsets those declines as its share of petroleum and other liquid fuels consumption rises.
  • The shift to renewables to meet growing electricity demand is driven by regional resources, technology costs, and policy.
  • Across IEO2023 cases, global electric-power generating capacity increases by 50-100%, and electricity generation increases by 30-76% by 2050, depending on the IEO2023 case. Zero-carbon technologies account for most of the growth in both global capacity and generation. Electricity generation from renewables and nuclear could provide as much as two-thirds of global electricity generation by 2050, according to the projections. Battery storage capacity grows significantly in all IEO2023 cases, increasing from less than 1% of global power capacity in 2022 to 4-9% of global power capacity by 2050, depending on the case. By 2050, the combined share of coal, natural gas, and petroleum liquids decrease to 27-38% of the installed global generating capacity across the cases.
  • Energy security concerns hasten a transition from fossil fuels in some countries, although they drive increased fossil fuel consumption in others.
  • Energy trade in fossil fuels will continue to grow as emerging economies demand more energy and the world continues to adapt to current geopolitical events. In almost all IEO2023 cases, energy production from zero-carbon technologies grows faster than from fossil fuels, but this dynamic varies by region. The Middle East and North America increase gas production and exports to meet growing demand, while Western Europe and Asia remain natural gas importers in all IEO2023 cases. Energy demand from China, India, Southeast Asia, and Africa will prompt major crude oil and natural gas producers to keep production.
  • Global crude oil production expands to meet the increase in global demand across all cases. The High and Low Oil Price cases explore the projected range of crude oil production due to the uncertainty around world crude oil prices, a key model assumption. Near- to mid-term production growth (2023-35) is met by non-OPEC regions, particularly in North and South America, across all cases except the Low Oil Price case. Between 2022 and 2035, non-OPEC production rises to almost 55 million b/d from 49 million b/d, Brazil and the Other Americas region produced over 6 million b/d in the Reference case. Canada oil sands production continues to grow through most of the 2020s.
  • Refineries are currently configured primarily to meet gasoline and distillate demand and cannot easily change the petroleum ratio of products they produce. In 2050, EIA projects that the transportation sector will account for at least 54% of total global liquid fuels consumption across all cases, despite increased penetration of EVs through the projection period. Therefore, this sector remains the main driver behind refinery operations and crude oil feedstocks. Notably, the changing fuel demand mix for petroleum products will drive a shift toward jet fuel production.