International Energy Agency
• Executive Director
• Deputy Executive Director
|Mary Burce Warlick|
The International Energy Agency (IEA; French: Agence internationale de l'énergie) is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organisation established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. The IEA was initially dedicated to responding to physical disruptions in the supply of oil, as well as serving as an information source on statistics about the international oil market and other energy sectors. It is best known for the publication of its annual World Energy Outlook.
In the decades since, its role has expanded to cover the entire global energy system, encompassing traditional energy sources such as oil, gas, and coal as well as cleaner and faster growing ones such as solar PV, wind power and biofuels. As the Covid-19 pandemic set off a global health and economic crisis in early 2020, the IEA called on governments to ensure that their economic recovery plans focus on clean energy investments in order to create the conditions for a sustainable recovery and long-term structural decline in carbon emissions.
Today the IEA acts as a policy adviser to its member states, as well as major emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa to support energy security and advance the clean energy transition worldwide. The Agency's mandate has broadened to focus on providing analysis, data, policy recommendations and solutions to help countries ensure secure, affordable and sustainable energy for all. In particular, it has focused on supporting global efforts to accelerate the clean energy transition and mitigate climate change. The IEA has a broad role in promoting rational energy policies and multinational energy technology co-operation with a view to reaching net zero emissions.
The IEA's current Executive Director is Fatih Birol, who took office in late 2015 and began his second term four years later.
In response to the growing number of pledges by countries and companies around the world to limit their emissions to net zero by 2050 or soon after, IEA announced in January 2021 that it would produce a roadmap for the global energy sector to reach 2050 net zero. The IEA says the report, due to be published on May 18, 2021, tries to map out a pathway in line with preventing global temperatures from rising above 1.5 °C - something that environmental groups, investors and companies had been urging the IEA to do. All IEA member countries have signed the Paris Agreement which strives to limit warming to 1.5 °C and two thirds of IEA member governments have made commitments to emission neutrality in 2050.
The IEA was established to meet the industrial countries' energy organization needs in the wake of the 1973–1974 oil crisis. Although the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had structures such as the Council, the Executive Committee, the Oil Committee, and the Energy Committee that could potentially deal with energy questions, it could not respond effectively to the crisis. The OECD had adopted the Oil Apportionment Decision [C(72)201(Final)], laying out procedures to be carried out in the event of an oil supply emergency in Europe, but these procedures were not implemented during the crisis. In addition, the OECD had adopted recommendations on oil stockpiling in Europe, but due to their limited scope, these measures could have only a limited role in an oil supply emergency.: 34–36
Establishment of the new organization was proposed by United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in his address to the Pilgrims Society in London on 12 December 1973. Also in December 1973, at the summit of the European Communities in Copenhagen, Danish Prime Minister Anker Jørgensen, who chaired the summit, declared that the summit found it "useful to study with other oil-consuming countries within the framework of the OECD ways of dealing with the common short and long term energy problems of consumer countries."
At the Washington Energy Conference on 11–13 February 1974, the ministers of thirteen principal oil consumer countries stated "the need for a comprehensive action program to deal with all facets of the world energy situation by cooperative measures. In so doing they will build on the work of the OECD.": 43–45
While creating a new energy organization, it was decided to utilize the framework of the OECD, as it had experience in dealing with oil and other energy questions, had expertise in economic analysis and statistics, had established staff, physical facilities, legal status and privileges and immunities, and was the principal organization of the industrial countries. However, the OECD has a rule of unanimity, and not all member states were ready to participate. Therefore, instead of an integrated approach, an autonomous approach was chosen.: 41–42
The IEA was created on 18 November 1974 by the Agreement on an International Energy Program (IEP Agreement).: 20
During its history, the IEA has intervened in oil markets three times by releasing oil stocks – in 1991 during the Gulf War, in 2005 by releasing 2 million barrels per day (320×103 m3/d) for a month after Hurricane Katrina affected US production, and most recently in 2011 to offset continued disruption to oil supplies as a result of the 2011 Libyan civil war.
In April 2001, the IEA, in collaboration with five other international organisations (APEC, Eurostat, OLADE, OPEC, UNSD) launched the Joint Oil Data Exercise, which in 2005 became the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI).
According to the World Energy Outlook 2010, conventional crude oil production peaked in 2006, with an all-time maximum of 70 million barrels per day.
In June 2014 in its World Energy Outlook, the IEA warned that US$40 trillion in investment is needed by 2035 to maintain adequate supplies. Half of that sum would be spent to prop up declining fields and half to finding new sources of supply.
Only OECD member states can become members of the IEA. In 2014, Estonia joined the IEA and became its 29th member. IEA member countries are required to maintain total oil stock levels equivalent to at least 90 days of the previous year's net imports. In 2018, Mexico joined the IEA and became its 30th member. Three countries are seeking accession to full membership, Chile, Israel, and Lithuania.
In March 2017, after a series of intensive consultations with all the relevant ministries, India joined the IEA as an association country. This was a major milestone for global energy governance and another major step towards the IEA becoming a truly global energy organisation and strengthening ties with the key energy players. Since then, Indian delegations have actively participated in IEA committees, meetings and workshops. The IEA launches major publications in New Delhi to share findings with Indian energy communities and policy-makers.
The IEA has been criticised for systematically underestimating the role of renewable energy sources in future energy systems such as photovoltaics and their cost reductions.
Ahead of the launch of the 2009 World Energy Outlook, the British daily newspaper The Guardian, referring to an unidentified senior IEA official, alleged that the agency was deliberately downplaying the risk of peak oil under pressures from the USA. According to a second unidentified former senior IEA official it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" and that the world has already entered the "peak oil zone".
The Guardian also referred to a team of scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden who studied the 2008 World Energy Outlook and concluded the forecasts of the IEA were unattainable. According to their peer-reviewed report, oil production in 2030 would not exceed 75 million barrels per day (11.9×106 m3/d) while the IEA forecasts a production of 105 million barrels per day (16.7×106 m3/d). The lead author of the report, Dr. Kjell Aleklett, has claimed that IEA's reports are "political documents". Other research from the same group has thoroughly reviewed oil projections done by the IEA World Energy Outlook.
The anticorruption NGO Global Witness wrote in its report Heads in the Sand that "Global Witness' analysis demonstrates that the Agency continues to retain an overly-optimistic, and therefore misleading, view about potential future oil production." According to Global Witness, "the Agency's over-confidence, despite credible data, external analysis and underlying fundamentals all strongly suggesting a more precautionary approach, has had a disastrous global impact."
In the past, the IEA has been criticized by environmental groups for underplaying the role of renewable energy technologies in favor of nuclear and fossil fuels. In 2009, Guy Pearse stated that the IEA has consistently underestimated the potential for renewable energy alternatives.
The Energy Watch Group (EWG), a coalition of scientists and politicians which analyses official energy industry predictions, claims that the IEA has had an institutional bias towards traditional energy sources and has been using "misleading data" to undermine the case for renewable energy, such as wind and solar. A 2008 EWG report compares IEA projections about the growth of wind power capacity and finds that it has consistently underestimated the amount of energy the wind power industry can deliver.
For example, in 1998, the IEA predicted global wind electricity generation would total 47.4 GW by 2020, but EWG's report states that this level was reached by the end of 2004. The report also said that the IEA has not learned the lesson of previous underestimates, and last year net additions of wind power globally were four times greater than the average IEA estimate from its 1995–2004 predictions. This pattern seems to have continued through 2016.
Amid discontent from across the renewables sector at the IEA's performance as a global energy watchdog, the International Renewable Energy Agency was formed on January 26, 2009. The aim is to have the agency fully operational by 2010 with an initial annual budget of €25M.
Environmental groups have become critical of the IEA's 450 Scenario (created to align with the 2009 Copenhagen Accord), contending that it does not align with up-to-date climate science, nor is it consistent with the Paris climate agreement that aspires to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In March 2017, the IEA (along with IRENA) published a report that considers a safer climate scenario than their current 450S. This scenario offers improved chances of limiting global warming to less than two degrees, but – according to research organization Oil Change International – still falls short of adequately addressing climate science and the decarbonization required to reach agreed upon global climate limits. The IEA has stopped updating this safer climate scenario.
Concerns regarding the IEA's Sustainable Development Scenario (the successor to the 450 scenario) has also been raised by climate scientists and key financial institutions, who have called for 1.5 °C scenario placed centrally in the World Energy Outlook. As of December 2019, two-thirds of IEA member states have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050; however, the IEA's Sustainable Development Scenario only gets to net-zero by 2070, two decades too late.
In 2018 the IEA was criticized in Davos by Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Al-Falih, for hyping the US shale oil industry amid forecasts of oversupply for the oil market in their January Oil Market Report. Al-Falih was exasperated with those claims, arguing that natural depletion, and strong demand growth meant that there was plenty of room for new supplies, while the shale drillers would not crash the market. He further said that the IEA is overstating the role of shale in a global market, and how the core job of the IEA, is not to take things out of context.
The IEA's current forecasts for solar power do not accord with the exponential growth in the sector. The misleading projections have perpetuated the impression that the growth of solar power requires huge subsidies, and has the potential to discourage investment in solar energy market and consequently, hold back even faster growth.
In 2021, the IEA was publicly criticized by researchers at Our World in Data for publishing its detailed, global energy data behind paywalls, "[making] it unusable in the public discourse and [preventing] many researchers from accessing it". The authors suggested that "countries that fund the IEA drop the requirement to place data behind paywalls and increase their funding". Approximately 50 energy system wrote an open letter to the IEA which The Guardian subsequently covered.
IEA Bioenergy was set up in 1978 by the International Energy Agency (IEA) with the aim of improving cooperation and information exchange between countries that have national programmes in bioenergy research, development and deployment.
The International Energy Agency acts as energy policy advisor to 29 member countries plus the European Commission, in their effort to ensure reliable, affordable, and clean energy for their citizens. The IEA's initial role was to co-ordinate measures in times of oil supply emergencies. As energy markets have changed, so has the IEA. Current work focuses on climate change policies, market reform, energy technology collaboration and outreach to the rest of the world, especially major producers and consumers of energy like China, India, Russia and the OPEC countries.
Activities are set up under "implementing agreements". These are independent bodies operating in a framework provided by the IEA. There are 42 currently active implementing agreements, one of which is IEA Bioenergy.
Twenty-two countries plus the European Commission participate in IEA Bioenergy: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the US.
The work of IEA Bioenergy is structured in a number of "tasks" (projects), which have well defined objectives, budgets, and time frames. The collaboration which earlier was focused on research, development and demonstration is now increasingly also emphasising deployment on a large-scale and worldwide. Each participating country contributes to administrative requirements, shares the costs of managing the tasks and provides in-kind contributions to fund participation of national personnel in the tasks. Each task is led by one of the participating countries (operating agent) with technical effort co-ordinated by a task leader. The work is directed by the executive committee. All tasks have a common duration of three years.
The IEA Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (PVPS) is one of the collaborative R&D Agreements established within the IEA and, since its establishment in 1993, the PVPS participants have been conducting a variety of joint projects in the application of photovoltaic conversion of solar energy into electricity.
In 2011, IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said the current US$409 billion equivalent of fossil fuel subsidies are encouraging a wasteful use of energy, and that the cuts in subsidies is the biggest policy item that would help renewable energies get more market share and reduce CO2 emissions.
In November 2011, an IEA report entitled Deploying Renewables 2011 said "renewable energy technology is becoming increasingly cost competitive and growth rates are in line to meet levels required of a sustainable energy future". The report also said "subsidies in green energy technologies that were not yet competitive are justified in order to give an incentive to investing into technologies with clear environmental and energy security benefits". The renewable electricity sector has "grown rapidly in the past five years and now provides nearly 20 percent of the world's power generation", the IEA said. The IEA's report disagreed with claims that renewable energy technologies are only viable through costly subsidies and not able to produce energy reliably to meet demand. "A portfolio of renewable energy technologies is becoming cost-competitive in an increasingly broad range of circumstances, in some cases providing investment opportunities without the need for specific economic support," the IEA said, and added that "cost reductions in critical technologies, such as wind and solar, are set to continue."
In 2011, the International Energy Agency said that:
the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global. Hence the additional costs of the incentives for early deployment should be considered learning investments; they must be wisely spent and need to be widely shared".
For the first time in 2012, an annual medium-term report which analyses the renewable energy sector will be published by the IEA. This publication on renewable energy – "which is now the fastest growing sector of the energy mix and accounts for almost a fifth of all electricity produced worldwide – will join annual medium-term reports on oil, gas and coal, which the IEA already produces". With this report, "renewable energy takes its rightful seat at the table alongside the other major energy sources".
As of 2015, there are 28 members, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United States, as well as EPIA, European Union, International Copper Association, SEIA and SEPA.
The IEA's Energy Conservation through Energy Storage (ECES) Programme has completed 20 developmental annexes covering seasonal thermal energy storage as sensible heat (or cold), as well as storage of thermal energy (sensible, latent, thermochemical) and electrical energy. Four other annexes are on-going.
The ECES programme has held triennial global energy conferences since 1981. The conferences originally focused exclusively on STES, but now that those technologies are mature and other kinds of energy storage technology are now also included. Since 1985 each conference has had "stock" (for storage) at the end of its name; e.g. Ecostock, Thermastock. They are held at various locations around the world. Most recent was Greenstock 2015 (the 13th International Conference on Thermal Energy Storage) in Beijing, China. Enerstock 2018 will be held in Adana, Turkey.
The Technology Collaboration Programme on Heat Pumping Technologies by IEA (HPT TCP) was founded in 1978. It is one of the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCP).
One of the main activities of the HPT TCP is to run collaborative research, development, demonstration and deployment projects. They are called "annexes" and they are conducted on a combination of cost sharing and task-sharing basis by the participating countries. Most annexes operate for a limited period and objectives can vary from information exchange to the development and implementation of new technologies.
IEA promotes reduction of CO2 emissions for both conventional fossil-fuel carbon capture and storage (CCS) and for bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by working with member and partner nations on development of cost effective and efficient international and national energy policies including CCS, trading mechanisms and low-carbon technologies. The 2012 IEA report entitled "A Policy Strategy for Carbon Capture and Storage" argues for comprehensive policy mechanisms that include setting a market price on CO2 emissions as key to reduction of CO2 emissions. "In contrast to renewable energy or applications of energy efficiency, CCS generates no revenue, nor other market benefits, so long as there is no price on CO2 emissions. It is both costly to install and, once in place, has increased operating costs. Effective, well-designed policy support is essential in overcoming these barriers and the subsequent deployment of CCS technology."
At the Heiligendamm Summit in June 2007, the G8 acknowledged an EU proposal for an international initiative on energy efficiency proposed in March 2007, and agreed to explore, together with the IEA, the most effective means to promote energy efficiency internationally. A year later, on 8 June 2008, the G8 countries, China, India, South Korea and the European Community established the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation, at the Energy Ministerial meeting hosted by Japan in the frame of the 2008 G8 Presidency, in Aomori.
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