Historical variation of IEA energy and CO2 emission projections: Implications for future energy modeling

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The World Energy Outlook reports produced by the International Energy Agency have long been considered the “gold standard” in terms of energy modeling and projecting future trends. It is thus extremely important to assess how well its projections are aligned with sustainable development goals as well as closely tracking observed, historical values. In this work we analyzed thirteen sets of World Energy Outlook projections from the last 25 years. Different scenarios were considered for the following regions and countries: world, OECD, OECD Europe, OECD North America, China, India, Russia, and Africa. The maximum variation between the projections for 2030 CO2 emissions from the energy sector, made between 2006 and 2018 for OECD, Europe and North America were found to be comparable with the gap between the Paris Agreement goals and the voluntary (unconditional) nationally determined contributions to remain below a 2C global temperature increase. For the same period, projections for the percentage of renewable electricity exhibited maximum variations between 51% and 96%, signaling a huge underestimation. We discuss the significance of overestimating energy demand and underestimating the rate of renewable energy implementation in the context of 2030 climate and energy policy targets, as well as desirablemethodological changes to energy modeling under aggressive climate mitigation policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7432
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Climate change mitigation
  • Energy system modeling
  • Global and regional energy projections
  • Integrated energy system planning
  • Nationally determined contributions


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