This year, once again, energy experts from all over Belgium gathered at Agoria’s head office in Brussels to listen to the predictions of Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) during the World Energy Outlook 2017, organised by Agoria’s Energy Technology Club. What were the key points of his inspiring address?
Fatih Birol: “No country is an energy island. We are all influenced by the strategic choices made by others.”
US undisputed leader in oil and gas production
Back in 2011, people were already saying that the US would be the largest oil producer by 2017. With output at 10 million barrels a day (incidentally the highest ever), this prediction has come true.
Solar energy is becoming cheapest option
China, India and the US are leading the charge for solar PV, while Europe is a frontrunner for wind power. This mix brings more flexibility to match power supply and demand and represents a very positive development in terms of the affordability of renewables.
China is ‘making the skies blue again’
The China effect should not be underestimated. China has seen enormous growth in renewables, especially solar and wind power. As many as six out of ten PV panels are produced there. But besides its record in renewable energy, the country is on track to become the world’s leading nuclear power and is able to build cheaper nuclear power plants.
The future is electrifying
Several factors explain this trend: the industrial motor, which is going full throttle, cooling (air conditioning), digitalisation and the rise in the number of electric vehicles. 2017 was a record year, with 2 million EVs rolling off the production line. This still contrasts sharply with the production figures for petrol vehicles, i.e. 1 billion, but electric looks set to continue its unstoppable growth in the years ahead.
Governments are generous with subsidies for electric vehicles and also production costs are expected to fall. But this does not mean that the price of oil will fall. A paradox, you might think? Well, we don’t have to look far to find the reason. The greatest demand for oil comes from the transport sector (trucks, shipping and aviation) and petrochemicals. This is an interesting point, because whenever energy efficiency is the topic of discussion, this aspect is barely mentioned.
Paris seems a long way off
As a result of current political trends, we are a long way from what the Paris Agreement requires. And even though combating climate change is still the main objective, too little is being done at the moment to achieve it. We need to redouble our energy efficiency efforts, and focus more on solar power and electric vehicles.
The trends in the energy landscape offer tremendous opportunities, but we should be alert to the pitfalls. It is up to governments and industry to maintain and even step up their efforts if we want to achieve the objectives.
Would you like to find out more about Agoria’s Energy Technology Club? Contact Pieter-Jan Provoost or Patricia Desmeth.