A significant transformation is expected in the world of electrical energy in the next few years. According to the IEA’s new World Energy Outlook 2023, major shifts underway today are set to result in a considerably different global energy system by the end of this decade. Here is a glimpse of the present status quo and the deemed new energy world…  - P. K. Chatterjee (PK)

Only a few days are remaining, COP 28 (Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC) will be held from November 30 until December 12, 2023 at Expo City, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Out of its long list of focused areas for discussion, due to obvious reasons, ‘SCIENCE’ will gain a high level of importance there. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the science on climate change is clear. There is no question that abnormal changes result from ‘global warming’ due to an increased ‘greenhouse effect’ caused by the vast amounts of ‘greenhouse gases’ added to the atmosphere by human activities.

How much we have been able to change globally since COP 27 (also since  Paris Agreement) that will be assessed there once again – although it is an open secret that our overall progress is still much far from the actual need. The energy sector has to play a vital role in the coming days to prevent further deterioration of the global climate.

Although, whether we will be able to restrict further upward movement of the earth’s temperature that cannot be assertively said at this moment, it is obvious that the electrical energy world is transforming at a rapid pace.

Recently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has published their flagship report titled ‘World Energy Outlook 2023’ against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions and fragile energy markets. The report has explored how structural shifts in economies and in energy use are shifting the way that the world meets rising demand for energy. Let us have a brief look at IEA’s outlook keeping an eye open to the current situation.

Transformations evident everywhere

In the past few years, we have noticed a growing trend of adopting renewable energies at different parts of the world. But the growth is neither happening at the estimated pace nor it is uniformly distributed.

As per IEA, “The phenomenal rise of clean energy technologies such as solar, wind, electric cars and heat pumps is reshaping how we power everything from factories and vehicles to home appliances and heating systems.”

Contextually, according to the information available from International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “By the end of 2022, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,372 Gigawatt (GW), growing the stock of renewable power by a record 295 GW or by 9.6%. An impressive 83% of all power capacity added last year (2022) was produced by renewables.”

However, the recently launched joint report (Tripling Renewable Power and Doubling Energy Efficiency by 2030: Crucial Steps Towards 1.50C); by COP 28 Presidency, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Global Renewables Alliance (GRA); communicates the following two messages.

COP 28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber has said in the report, “Tripling the deployment of renewable power generation and doubling energy efficiency are amongst the most important levers to cut greenhouse gas emissions. I am now calling on everyone to come together, commit to common targets, and take comprehensive domestic and international action, as outlined in this report, to make our ambitions a reality.”

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, President, COP28

Adding to that, IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera has said, “Our mission is as clear as it is urgent: We need concerted action to triple renewable power capacity by 2030. This includes urgently addressing deeply entrenched systemic barriers across infrastructure, policy and institutional capacities stemming from the fossil-fuel era. IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook, which provides the analytical foundation of this report, warns that the energy transition is dangerously off-track, demanding immediate, radical collective action. This report outlines actions governments must prioritize to fast-track the global energy transition and keep 1.50C alive.”

Francesco La Camera, Director-General, IRENA

The old proverb goes, “The gesture is sensible enough…” Are all governments in a position to prioritize actions? I don’t think more elaboration is necessary here. However, please wait, I’ll authentically touch upon that also at the end.

Coming back to the latest edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO) by IEA, they have visualised an energy system in 2030 in which clean technologies will play a significantly greater role than today. This includes almost 10 times as many electric cars on the road worldwide; solar PV generating more electricity than the entire US power system does currently; renewables’ share of the global electricity mix nearing 50%, up from around 30% today; heat pumps and other electric heating systems outselling fossil fuel boilers globally; and three times as much investment going into new offshore wind projects than into new coal- and gas-fired power plants.

But we have to remember that all of those increases are based only on the current policy settings of governments around the world. If countries deliver on their national energy and climate pledges on time and in full, clean energy progress would move even faster. However, even stronger measures would still be needed to keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.

The impact of policy settings

IEA researchers feel that the combination of growing momentum behind clean energy technologies and structural economic shifts around the world has major implications for fossil fuels, with peaks in global demand for coal, oil and natural gas all visible this decade – the first time this has happened in a WEO scenario based on today’s policy settings. In this scenario, the share of fossil fuels in global energy supply, which has been stuck for decades at around 80%, declines to 73% by 2030, with global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions peaking by 2025.

Is there anything to cheer on it? At least, I do not see any reason for the nonce.

Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA

Now the transition will continue

Expressing his view on the ongoing transition, IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol has said, “The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us. Governments, companies and investors need to get behind clean energy transitions rather than hindering them. There are immense benefits on offer, including new industrial opportunities and jobs, greater energy security, cleaner air, universal energy access and a safer climate for everyone. Taking into account the ongoing strains and volatility in traditional energy markets today, claims that oil and gas represent safe or secure choices for the world’s energy and climate future look weaker than ever.”

‘How soon?’ –  a question that has no answer yet 

IEA’s observation is that the demand for fossil fuels is set to remain far too high to keep within reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 °C. This risks not only worsening climate impacts after a year of record-breaking heat, but also undermining the security of the energy system, which was built for a cooler world with less extreme weather events. Bending the emissions curve onto a path consistent with 1.5 °C remains possible but very difficult. The costs of inaction could be enormous: despite the impressive clean energy growth based on today’s policy settings, global emissions would remain high enough to push up global average temperatures by around 2.4 °C this century, well above the key threshold set out in the Paris Agreement.


So, COP 28 will create yet another platform to decide whether we (all dwellers of the globe) really want to save our planet or decide to face dreadful disasters. There is enough reason to say so. Even today many countries are not in favour of completely stopping use of fossil fuels. But why?

Just around two months back, in his impassioned address on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to politicians, business, activists and civil society leaders, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a stark warning about the dire consequences of inaction. He said, “Our focus here is on climate solutions – and our task is urgent.” With extreme weather events accelerating, “humanity has opened the gates to hell,” told the Secretary-General, describing distressing scenes of farmers helplessly watching crops washed away by floods, the emergence of virulent disease due to rising temperatures, and the mass exodus of people fleeing historic wildfires.

Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA

He also spoke of the need for more climate justice, recognizing the anger felt by many of the world’s poorest nations disproportionately affected by a crisis they did not cause. “Many of the poorest nations have every right to be angry,” he added, explaining that promised finance had not materialized while the costs of borrowing remain sky-high.

Reminding that the developed countries must meet the $100 billion commitment, replenish the Green Climate Fund, and double adaptation funding, he emphasised, “All parties must operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund at COP 28.” Creating early warning systems for everyone by 2027 is a must, too.

Will his suggestion be translated into action?! We have no other alternatives but to wait and watch…

By P. K. Chatterjee (PK)

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