Speed Reads

Silver Linings

Russia's Ukraine invasion will hasten the shift to clean energy, International Energy Agency forecasts

Russia's war in Ukraine, and the response from the U.S. and other wealthy nations, have upended global energy markets, sending energy prices soaring in much of the world and prompting Europe to turn back to coal as winter approaches with Russian natural gas. But this state of global affairs will be short-lived, the International Energy Agency said Thursday in its annual World Energy Outlook report, and this energy crisis is likely to speed up the global shift to cleaner technologies like wind and solar power and electric vehicles. 

For the first time, the IEA forecasts that global demand for every time of fossil fuel — coal, gas, oil — will peak in the near future. 

"Energy markets and policies have changed as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being, but for decades to come," said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. "Government responses around the world promise to make this a historic and definitive turning point towards a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system."

According to the IEA's analysis of current government policies, coal use is expected to start declining within a few years, natural gas is expected to peak at the end of this decade, and oil use should plateau in the middle of the next decade. Global investment in clean energy is forecast to rise to $2 trillion a year by 2030, from $1.3 trillion this year, the IEA says, though changes in current policies could lower or raise those numbers — with a more or less direct impact on the effects of climate change. 

Russia, which cut off natural gas to Europe in apparent response to its support for Ukraine, is expected to have a hard time finding new markets in Asia to make up for Europe's pivot away from Russian fuel, the IEA says. And Russian fossil fuel exports are unlikely to ever return to their pre-invasion levels. 

"It's notable that many of these new clean energy targets aren't being put in place solely for climate change reasons," Birol told The New York Times. "Increasingly, the big drivers are energy security as well as industrial policy — a lot of countries want to be at the leading edge of the energy industries of the future."