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Russian fossil fuels to fall as world turns to cleaner energy, IEA says

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Experts have said that as nations shift to cleaner energy, fossil fuel exports from Russia will never return to 2021 levels amid the invasion of Ukraine.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said the crisis provoked by the war could be a “historic turning point towards a cleaner and more secure energy system” as countries like the US, China and Japan respond with a shift to clean power and technology such as electric cars.

“Energy markets and policies have changed because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being, but for decades to come,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “Even with today’s policy settings, the energy world is shifting dramatically before our eyes.”

The IEA’s world energy outlook for 2022 said that, for the first time, its scenario based on current policies by governments worldwide sees global demand for every fossil fuel peaking or plateauing. As a result, global emissions will peak in 2025, before falling slowly.

But the report warned this is far from enough to avoid severe climate change impacts, with temperatures set to hit a dangerous 2.5°C rise by the end of the century.

The IEA suggested we would need stronger policies to drive the vast increase in energy investment required to reduce future volatility and drive the deployment of clean energy.

The energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent shock waves through natural gas, coal, electricity and oil markets, stoked inflation, and created a looming risk of recession and food insecurity.

The IEA’s analysis finds scant evidence for claims that climate policies and commitments to cut emissions to net zero contributed to energy prices, warning the world is “struggling with too little clean energy, not too much”.

In the worst-hit regions, higher shares of renewables correlate with lower electricity prices, and more efficient homes and electric heating are providing a buffer for some consumers, though not enough, the IEA said.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is leading to an energy market “rupture” with Europe at a speed that few imagined possible, according to the report.

Russian fossil fuel exports never return to levels seen in 2021 in any of the scenarios set out by the IEA for future energy markets, with its share of internationally traded energy falling from nearly 20 per cent in 2021 to 13 per cent in 2030 under the current policies scenario.

If all the countries delivered on climate pledges – beyond existing policies – announced, there could be a temperature rise limit of 1.7°C in 2100.

But the report warned it was easier to make pledges than implement them and there would still be “considerably further to go” to achieve the 1.5°C warming limit countries have agreed to in order to avoid the most dangerous climate change.

If nations can maintain the current growth rates for deploying solar panels, wind, electric vehicles and batteries, it could lead to a much faster transformation than currently predicted, but would need policies to support them around the world, the IEA said.

Birol said: “The environmental case for clean energy needed no reinforcement, but the economic arguments in favour of cost-competitive and affordable clean technologies are now stronger – and so too is the energy security case.

“Today’s alignment of economic, climate and security priorities has already moved the dial towards a better outcome for the world’s people and for the planet.

“The journey to a more secure and sustainable energy system may not be a smooth one. But today’s crisis makes it crystal clear why we need to press ahead.”

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