The IEA is still grossly underestimating solar PV in its modelling
This post is a quick update of previous analysis.
Back in 2013 I pointed out how far from reality the IEA’s projections of renewables deployment were. They persistently showed the rates of installation of renewables staying roughly constant over the following 20 years at whatever level they had reached at the time of the projection being made. In reality, rates of installation were growing strongly, and have continued to do so (see chart). Rates of installation are now a factor of nearly four times greater than the IEA was projecting back in 2013 – they were projecting installation rates of about 28GW for 2018, where in fact around 100 GW were installed in 2017 and an estimated 110GW in 2018.
I have returned to the topic since 2013 (see links at the bottom of this post), as have many others, each time pointing out how divorced from reality the IEA’s projections are.
Unfortunately, the IEA is continuing with its approach, and continuing to grossly understate the prospects for renewables. Auke Hoestra has recently updated his analysis of the IEA’s solar PV projections to take account of the latest (2018) World Energy Outlook New Policies Scenario (see link below chart – in addition to chart data his post also contains a valuable commentary on the issue). The analysis continues to show the same pattern of obviously misleading projections, with the IEA showing the rate of solar PV installation declining from today’s rate until 2040. Of course eventually the market will mature, and rates of installation will stabilise, but this seems a long way off yet.
IEA projections for solar PV in successive World Energy Outlooks compared with outturn
In 2013 I was inclined to give the IEA the benefit of the doubt, suggesting organisational conservatism led to the IEA missing a trend. This no longer seems tenable – the disconnect between projections and reality has been too stark for too long. Instead, continuing to present such projections is clearly a deliberate choice.
As Hoekstra notes, explanations for the disconnect have been advanced by the IEA, but they are unsatisfactory. And as renewables become an ever-larger part of the energy mix the distortions introduced by this persistence in misleading analysis become ever greater.
There is no excuse for the IEA persisting with such projections, and none for policy makers taking them seriously. This is disappointing when meaningful analysis of the energy transition is ever more necessary.
Adam Whitmore -21st January 2019
 The BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows a total of 87GW installed in 2017 https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/corporate/pdfs/energy-economics/statistical-review/bp-stats-review-2018-renewable-energy.pdf