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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 by scenario, 1990-2050

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Global energy-related emissions rose to a record high

In 2021, emissions rose by a record 1.9 Gt to reach 36.6 Gt, driven by extraordinarily rapid post-pandemic economic growth, slow progress in improving energy intensity, and a surge in coal demand even as renewables capacity additions scaled record heights. Recent investment in fossil fuel infrastructure not included in our 2021 NZE Scenario would result in 25 Gt of emissions if run to the end of its lifetime (around 5% of the remaining carbon budget for 1.5 °C).

Despite these mostly discouraging developments, the pathway detailed in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE) Scenario remains narrow but still achievable. This update to the NZE Scenario offers a comprehensive account of how policymakers and others could respond coherently to the challenges of climate change, energy affordability and energy security.

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.

Change in electricity generation in the Stated Policies Scenario between 2021 and 2030

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Electricity production will be led by renewables by 2030

Low-emissions sources of electricity, led by renewables, are poised to overtake fossil fuels by 2030 in the STEPS and APS, ending decades of growth for coal. Global electricity demand rises by 25-30% to 2030 in the STEPS and APS due to more electric motors, EVs, heat pumps and hydrogen. Recently, coal use in the electricity sector has seen an uptick in many countries in response to strong demand, high natural gas prices and energy security concerns, but this is expected to be temporary. Even in the STEPS, unabated coal falls from 36% of generation in 2021 to 26% in 2030 and 12% in 2050, reflecting renewables growth, led by solar PV and wind.

Global electric car stock, 2010-2021

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EV's are on the rise

Few areas in the world of clean energy are as dynamic as the electric car market. Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) doubled in 2021 from the previous year to a new record of 6.6 million. Back in 2012, just 120 000 electric cars were sold worldwide. In 2021, more than that many are sold each week. The success of EVs is being driven by multiple factors. Sustained policy support is the main pillar. Public spending on subsidies and incentives for EVs nearly doubled in 2021 to nearly USD 30 billion. A growing number of countries have pledged to phase out internal combustion engines or have ambitious vehicle electrification targets for the coming decades. Finally, five times more new EV models were available in 2021 than in 2015, increasing the attractiveness for consumers.

Global energy investment, 2017-2022

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Investment in energy supplies and technologies

Our updated tracking, across all sectors, technologies and regions, suggests that world energy investment is set to rise over 8% in 2022 to reach a total of USD 2.4 trillion, well above pre-Covid levels. Investment is increasing in all parts of the energy sector, but the main boost in recent years has come from the power sector – mainly in renewables and grids – and from increased spending on end-use efficiency.

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.