IEA renewables forecast "inadequately low" includes "serious errors" says NGO

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The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook (WEO), released on Tuesday, is often used by policy makers as a key document in plotting future energy supply. Its latest iteration has been severely criticized from a number of quarters, with the Energy Watch Group the latest to add its voice to the chorus of condemnation.

Even in its most optimistic “New Policies” scenario, the IEA forecasts that growth of annual renewable energy installations will cease growing, with 144 GW of renewable capacity added globally through 2040.

The German-lead Energy Watch Group notes that solar PV investment costs are “outdated” with the figures used by the IEA for the period 2025 – 2040 having already been achieved in 2015.

“Although the IEA spreads positive messages in its WEO presentations, the actual figures show serious errors and inadequately low forecasts for sustainable energy technologies, which are the least expensive form of energy supply in a growing number of regions in the world,” said Christian Breyer, Professor for Solar Economy at the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland. “We need [the] urgent help of journalists and civil society to find out the real reasons for these continuous incorrect IEA projections for solar PV and wind energy.”

Breyer was the lead author in the latest Energy Watch Group study on global renewable energy deployment.

The group also says the predictions of rising oil consumption are “risky and irresponsible,” given the high debt levels of oil companies, the current lack investment in the sector and decrease convectional oil production.

“We are now standing at a crossroads: either high oil prices disrupt the economy, or lower prices disrupt oil companies. It is a toss-up whether the transition to a low-carbon energy supply will go smoothly or will cause major upheavals", said Werner Zittel, senior energy expert at Ludwig Bölkow Systemtechnik. “Even more so it must be the duty of the IEA to provide realistic signposts rather than limit itself to the business-as-usual thinking.”

Energy Watch Group also criticized the IEA’s predictions for significant growth in the nuclear sector. It points to significant cost blowouts in nuclear projects in Finland and France as indicating that such growth is not financially viable.