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Press release

Global electricity demand to rebound modestly in 2021 after historic shock from pandemic

14 December 2020

After experiencing its biggest decline in decades, global electricity demand is expected to rebound modestly next year, led by growth in China, India and other emerging economies, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

The historic shock of the Covid-19 crisis is set to result in a 2% decline in global electricity demand in 2020, according to the IEA’s first ever Electricity Market Report, which was published today. With the recovery of the world economy in 2021, electricity demand is forecast to grow by around 3%. That would be significantly weaker than the rebound in demand of over 7% in 2010, the year following the global financial crisis. China will be the only major economy to see higher electricity demand in 2020. However, its expected growth of around 2% is well below its recent average of 6.5%. Other big electricity consumers including the United States, India, Europe, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia are all set to experience declines for the year as a whole.

Electricity generation from renewable energy – such as hydropower, wind and solar – is forecast to grow by almost 7% in 2020, squeezing conventional power sources. Coal-fired generation is set to fall by around 5%, the largest decrease on record; nuclear power generation by around 4%; and gas-fired electricity generation by 2%. Overall, CO2 emissions from electricity generation are on course to fall by 5% in 2020.

“Electricity has a central role in today’s energy world – a role that will only increase in importance as clean energy transitions accelerate,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “Based on the very latest data available, the IEA’s new Electricity Market Report provides fresh insights on this critical sector. Starting next year, we will publish a new edition of the report on a half-yearly basis.”

Falling demand, lower fuel prices and the increase in renewable generation have dragged down wholesale electricity prices in 2020. The IEA’s wholesale electricity market price index, which tracks price movements in major advanced economies, shows an average price decline of 28% this year, after having already fallen by 12% in 2019.

The growth of renewable power generation is forecast to continue in 2021 with an increase of more than 6%, expanding the share of renewables in the power mix to 29% from 28% in 2020. Nuclear power is set for growth of 2.5% next year on rebounds in France and Japan and new plants coming online in China and the United Arab Emirates.

In advanced economies, the growth of renewables and nuclear power will continue to shrink the space remaining for fossil fuel generation. Natural gas is likely to be impacted more than coal as a result of an expected rise in natural gas prices. In emerging and developing economies, demand growth is forecast to outpace increases in renewables and nuclear power, leaving some room for coal and gas generation to expand. 

The expected net result globally is that coal-fired generation increases by around 3% in 2021, while gas-fired plants increase output by roughly 1%. This would lead to a rise in CO2 emissions from the power sector of around 2% in 2021.

Read the report

This is the first ever Electricity Market Report produced by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Designed to complement other reports in the Market Report Series on energy efficiency, renewables, coal, natural gas and oil, this report focuses on developments in the world’s electricity markets amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It includes an assessment of 2020 trends and 2021 forecasts for electricity demand, supply, capacity and emissions – both globally and by country. Starting in 2021, the IEA will publish a new edition of the report on a half-yearly basis with the latest updates on key developments in global electricity markets.

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