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Energy transitions

Tracking progress in clean energy transitions through key indicators across fuels and technologies


The IEA's work on tracking clean energy transitions

Tracking progress is essential to reaching our climate and sustainable development goals. The IEA's Net Zero by 2050 Scenario lays out a narrow but achievable pathway to net zero emissions by mid-century. Accurate and up-to-date indicators are essential to measure how the world is stacking up next to this challenge, and to determine where to channel investment and policy attention.

No single indicator can fully capture the complexity of the global clean energy transition, but the following set of indicators unpack the underlying drivers of energy supply and demand that determine the energy sector’s contribution to CO2 emissions. Taken together, they provide a picture of where we are now, and what trajectories we are on at a global, regional, national and sectoral level.

These indicators build on years of work at the IEA to analyze and chart the energy transition, and the impact of the energy sector on emissions, and provide recommendations and solutions to policy makers based on accurate data and objective analysis. This page provides an entry point into our wide range of reports and data on this critical topic.

Global tracking indicators

Global energy-related CO2 emissions in the Stated Policies, Sustainable Development and Net Zero scenarios, 1990-2050

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Global energy-related CO2 emissions

This indicator provides the most immediate measure of the state of the global energy transition and how far the world is straying from the goal to cut carbon emissions. To prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5C degrees, emissions need to peak quickly and then start a steep decline starting this decade. While global emissions did decline in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are on track to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, indicating that we have not reached the inflection point necessary to put ourselves on the path to meet commitments made in the Paris Agreement.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions by sector in 2020 and 2050

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Global emissions by technology and sector

Curbing emissions requires knowing where they are coming from. Only then can policy makers decide where to concentrate their attention, policy action and steer public and private investment. The data presented here are global, and country data will vary greatly depending on climate, structure of national economies, and existing energy infrastructure, and other criteria.

Global average carbon intensity of electricity generation in the Stated Policies, Sustainable Development and Net Zero scenarios, 2000-2040

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Carbon intensity of electricity generation

The transformation of the power sector is critical to clean energy transitions, as power generation accounts for around 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions and electricity is increasingly used to meet end-use energy demand. This indicator provides a snapshot of global progress towards decarbonising our power systems. It shows how much carbon is emitted for each unit of electricity produced.

Global EV sales share in Stated Policies, Sustainable Development and Net Zero scenarios, 2015-2040

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Electrifying road transport

Road transport accounts for 20% of energy-related CO2 emissions, and is responsible for the vast majority of urban air pollution. Pathways to carbon neutrality involves a shift towards more public transport and electric vehicles (EV). Not only are electric motors more efficient than internal combustion engines, but they are also much cleaner – provided, of course, that power to recharge electric vehicles is generated from low-carbon sources. EV sales are expected to expand as their performance improves, costs fall, and charging infrastructure is scaled up.

Energy investment by scenario, 2025-2030

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Investment in energy supplies and technologies

Many energy transition indicators provide a useful snapshot of where we are today, which largely reflects policy and investment decisions taken in the past. Investment indicators are forward looking, providing a preview of energy sources that will remain in operation for decades to come.

Government and mobilised sustainable recovery spending in July vs. October 2021, annual average, 2021-2023

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Pandemic recovery spending

Governments around the world committed unprecedented sums to stabilise and rebuild their economies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with many countries saying they would enact a sustainable recovery accelerating clean energy investments. The IEA created a Sustainable Recovery Tracker to monitor the energy-related policies and government spending in these support measures, and to evaluate their impact. As of the third quarter of 2021, only about 3% of the total fiscal support in response to Covid-19 had gone to clean energy measures, well short of what is needed to put the world on track for Net Zero emission by 2050.

Global public energy RD&D budget, low-carbon vs. total, 2015-2020

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Public investment in low-carbon research and development

Public RD&D expenditures have played a significant role in fostering previous waves of technological change. Public RD&D investment in low-carbon sources can foster private investment by signalling the long-term commitments of policymakers to the energy transition, as well as providing an indication of the trajectory of clean energy roll-outs. Forward looking indicators such as these can indicate what sort of energy solutions or types of technologies are being developed or are about to be built.
Country-level tracking indicators

CO2 emissions per capita in selected countries and regions, 2000-2020

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Emissions per capita

Changes in the structural composition of the economy can have significant implications for CO2 emissions, complementing (or undermining) the effects arising from changes in the energy-intensity of individual sectors.

Carbon intensity of electricity generation in selected countries and regions, 2000-2020

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Carbon intensity of power generation

Each country begins its path to decarbonisation from a different starting point, a result of its legacy energy mix built up over decades. This indicator provides a measure of the carbon content of the power sector.

Renewables share of electricity generation in selected countries and regions, 2000-2020

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Renewables share in electricity generation

Electrifying the economy is a key component of reaching Net Zero emissions by mid-century, and will require increasing the share of renewables in our power generation capacity as we shift towards electric cars, factories and home heating systems. Despite major rollouts of solar and wind power in recent years, the majority of the world’s electricity still comes from fossil fuels, mostly coal and gas. Curbing emissions as electricity use rises will require even faster adoption of solar, wind, hydropower and other technologies, as well as dealing with our legacy thermal plants.

Total energy supply per unit of GDP for selected countries and regions, 2000-2020

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Energy intensity

Even though energy efficiency progress should be tracked with detailed indicators, such data collection is still a challenge in many countries worldwide. At the global level, the use of aggregated indicators that all countries can measure and compare is useful in the absence of more granular and targeted data. Energy intensity tracks how much energy is needed per unit of economic output in a given country or region. New technologies and efficiency measures can reduce the amount of energy needed to provide the goods and services we produce.

Access to electricity in selected countries and regions, 2000-2019

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Expanding access to electricity

Access to modern and reliable energy services is a prerequisite to unlock economic development and bring improvements in health, food security, agricultural practices and gender equality. There’s been recent progress, but our latest assessment finds that 770 million people still did not have access to electricity in 2019 and around 2.6 billion people remained without access to clean cooking. The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on projects, poverty levels and energy affordability also risks reversing recent progress. Thanks to new technologies and falling costs, rolling out renewables and extending access can often go hand in hand. And providing electricity to all can reduce carbon emissions, because it eliminates the need to cut and burn trees for cooking and heating.

Learn more about energy access in SDG7: Data and Projections.

Share of electricity in total final consumption in selected countries and regions, 2000-2020

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Share of electricity in final consumption

Electrifying the economy is a key element of reaching Net Zero emissions by mid-century, in tandem with an increasingly decarbonised power system. Sectors ripe for greater electrification are transport (especially road vehicles), buildings (especially for heat and cooking), some industrial applications, and producing low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen.