About this report

World Energy Investment 2018 provides a critical benchmark for decision-making by governments, the energy industry, and financial institutions to set policy frameworks, implement business strategies, finance new projects, and develop new technologies. It highlights the ways in which investment decisions taken today are determining how energy supply and demand will unfold tomorrow. The report looks at critical issues that have shaped the energy industry, including: the countries and policies that attracted the most energy investment in 2017, and which fuels and technologies grew the fastest; whether energy investment is sufficient to realise the world’s energy transition objectives; how oil and gas companies are responding to higher oil prices; whether they are changing their strategy decisions in order to ensure adequate supplies while minimising long-term risks; how the business model for US shale is evolving; whether the rapid growth of production in 2018 is still largely based on continuous overspending or whether the industry is finally moving towards financial sustainability; if business models and financing approaches are supporting a shift in power generation investments towards renewables; how regulators around the world are shaping enabling investments in power system networks and flexibility; what policy and market factors drive energy efficiency spending; how the sources of energy finance are evolving; what roles public financial institutions and utilities are playing; how decision makers are addressing investment risks in India and other emerging economies; what the main considerations are facing investors in batteries and the electric vehicle value chain; carbon capture, utilisation and storage; and hydrogen.

The IEA's World Energy Investment provides a wealth of data and analysis for decision making by governments, the energy industry and financial institutions to set policy frameworks, implement business strategies, finance new projects and develop new technologies. It highlights the ways in which investment decisions taken today are determining how energy supply and demand will unfold tomorrow.

This year's edition points to another year of falling investment in 2017, and that energy investment is failing to keep up with energy security and sustainability goals.

Key findings

Total energy investment has fallen again...

2017 was the third consecutive year of decline in global energy investment with energy efficiency the lone sector of growth. Despite a 6% decline in spending, the electricity sector again attracted the largest share of energy sector investments, exceeding the oil and gas industry for the second year in row, as the energy sector moves toward greater electrification.

Global energy investment 2017 (billion USD) and change from 2016


... and is increasingly underpinned by governments

State-backed investments are accounting for a rising share of global energy investment, as state-owned enterprises have remained more resilient in oil and gas and thermal power compared with the private sector.

The share of global energy investment driven by state-owned enterprises increased over the past five years to over 40% in 2017.

Share of government/SOE ownership in energy investment by sector, 2012-2017


Government policies are playing a growing role in driving private spending

Across all power sector investments, more than 95% of investment is now based on regulation or contracts for remuneration.

Investment in energy efficiency is particularly linked to government policy, often through energy performance standards.

Global power sector investment by main remuneration model for a total power sector investment in 2017 of USD 750 billion


The power sector is becoming more capital intensive

Electricity investment has shifted towards renewables, networks and flexibility. Yet, renewable power investment declined in 2017 by 7%, despite record levels of spending on solar PV. Moreover, the expected output from low-carbon power investments fell 10% in 2017 and did not keep pace with demand growth.

Expected generation from low-carbon power investments vs electricity demand growth, 2012-2017


Global power sector investment, 2007-2017


In emerging markets, auctions are supporting larger renewable projects

In emerging markets the average size of awarded solar PV projects in auctions rose by 4.5 times while that of onshore wind rose by half over 2013-17, helping to support economies of scale. In Europe, tendered large projects are mainly concentrated in offshore wind; auctions have generally not resulted in large, land-based renewables projects.

Average awarded project size in utility-scale solar PV, Europe and emerging markets, 2013-2017


Average awarded project size in offshore wind auctions, Europe and emerging markets, 2013-2017


Average awarded project size in onshore wind auctions, Europe and emerging markets, 2013-2017


Fewer decisions are being taken for investment in thermal generation

In 2017 newly sanctioned coal power fell 18%, driven by a slowdown in China, India and Southeast Asia. However, despite declining capacity additions - and a wave of retirements of existing plants - the global coal fleet continued to expand in 2017. And while investment decisions signal a continued shift towards more efficient plants, 60% of currently operating capacity uses inefficient subcritical technology. Meanwhile, sanctioned gas power fell nearly 23%, due mainly to the MENA region and the United States.

Gas-fired power generation capacity subject to a FID by region (annual average), 2010-2017


Coal-fired power generation capacity subject to a FID by region (annual average), 2010-2017


Oil and gas companies are doing more with less...

Following the peaks in oil and gas upstream investment reached in 2014, investment collapsed abruptly as a result of lower prices. 2017 investment rebounded by 2% in real terms, and we estimate the same level of growth for 2018.

One notable trend concerns the relationship between oil prices and upstream costs. In the past, there has been a roughly linear relationship between upstream costs and oil prices. When price spiked, so did costs, and vice versa. What we are noting now is a decoupling. While prices have more than doubled since 2016, global upstream costs have remained substantially flat and for 2018 we estimate those increasing very modestly, by just 3%. Companies appear to have learned to do more with less.

Global oil and gas upstream capital spending, 2012-2018


...and the dynamics of the oil and gas industry are evolving

The oil and gas industry has been traditionally characterised by long-lead times projects with predictable production profiles. Yet as a result of the shale revolution in the United States this trend is changing and the industry is re-thinking the way they choose, execute and manage projects. Furthermore, investment in conventional assets (responsible for the bulk of supply) remains focused on expansion of existing projects rather than developing new sources of production.

Moving forward, the overall balance of market supply will be given by combination of conventional activities (which respond slowly) and unconventional projects (which respond to market conditions in a much more rapid way) suggesting the possibility of more volatility ahead in the markets.

Share of upstream oil and gas investment by asset type, 2000-2018


Meanwhile, US LTO is becoming a financially sustainable business

The prospects of the US shale industry are improving. Between 2010 and 2014, companies spent up to USD 1.8 for each dollar of revenue. However, the industry has almost halved its breakeven price, providing a more sustainable basis for future expansion. This underpins a record increase in US light tight oil production of 1.3 million barrels a day in 2018.

US LTO production, capital investment and free cash flow, 2010-2018


Clean energy R&D investment is finally on the rise

Government low-carbon energy RD&D spending in 2017 was estimated to have increased by 13% in 2017. This is a welcome increase after years of decreases and stagnation. Much of the increase in low-carbon energy technology RD&D spending is driven by North America, more than compensating for declines in Europe and Japan.

Public spending on energy RD&D in selected countries, 2012-2017 est.


Yet investment in carbon capture, utilisation and storage is falling behind

Commercial incentive as low as USD 40 per tonne of CO2sequestered could trigger investment in the capture, utilisation and storage of up to 450 million tonnes of CO2.

ICT appears to be banking on the energy sector

Corporate investments in new energy technology companies are growing strongly, reaching their highest ever level of just over USD 6 billion in 2017 - strategic investments by companies to get a stake in potentially key new technology areas. While there is some increase in investments by utilities, the striking finding is that vast majority of the growth is coming from ICT companies, mostly investing in EV start-ups and digital solutions for smart grids and efficiency.

Corporate investments in new energy technology companies, by sector of investing company, 2007-2017