India has planned to reduce its dependence on and its consumption of coal: its goal is for the latter to represent 43% of its energy mix by 2027. The government is investing massively in renewable energy. It aims for the latter’s share within the country’s energy mix to increase from 17.5% today to 44% in 2027, mainly thanks to a multi-billion dollar policy supporting solar energy. However, the challenge will be to adapt the country’s network to intermittent production of renewable energy, and to supply electricity to 1.6 billion people by 2040. In order to achieve this goal, the IEA believes that the country needs to have infrastructure equivalent to that of the European energy system.
China, which is experiencing serious public health problems in its urban areas because of coal externalities, is expected to reduce its coal consumption by 0.1% per year by 2022. This may seem weak, but it does nonetheless represent a trend reversal for the country. According to a recent American study, 500 000 Chinese (and 300 000 Indians) would die prematurely because of air pollution due to the use of coal. With a marked improvement in Chinese living standards, air quality is now one of the population’s top concerns, and a possible reason for social protest against the regime. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, said it was now one of the government's priorities.
ASEAN countries will experience an increase in coal consumption due to a strong demographic growth (+ 20% by 2040), even though the region’s population already comprises 640 million inhabitants. 150 million more people will live in urban areas. Economic growth (5.3% annual growth according to the IMF) will also give the entire population access to electricity. Today, 65 million people lack such access in ASEAN countries.
Climate change particularly impacts the Asian continent, which is struck by typhoons, floods, etc. Asia produces 2000 GW of energy through its operating coal plants. Last year, the use of coal increased by 4% in China, and 13% in India. Disconnection between markets and climate objectives is worrying given recent alarming reports like that of the IPCC.
Yet hope remains. India plans to generate 175 GW of renewable energy, and China wants to become the leading player in renewable energy, especially through solar and wind energy. According to 2018 BP Energy Outlook, the latter responded to 80% of the increase in its energy demand through renewable energy. These developments are not sufficient to achieve the climate goals set by the Paris Agreement, but actions can still be undertaken to tackle climate change. These issues are at the heart of the COP24 negotiations taking place in Katowice, Poland.
Population and energy boom in Africa: what to expect?
As in Asia, energy demand in Africa is rising and will keep doing so, although at a slower pace. According to the International Energy Agency’s report, in 2014, the sub-Saharan population accounted for 13% of the world’s population, but only for 4% of its energy demand. The same report, "Africa Energy Outlook", estimates that by 2040, the total energy demand in sub-Saharan Africa will grow by less than half of that in India, and less than 40% of that in China. A surprising forecast, given that the African population is expected to boom at a higher rate than that of China or India. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2017), it could reach 4.7 billion people in 2100, which amounts to 40% of the expected global population for that year (11 billion).
The main reason behind this seemingly low demand for energy is a slow economic growth (3.1% in 2018 and 3.7% in 2020, according to the World Bank’s predictions), which leaves 600 million people without any access to electricity today in Africa. This means that, unlike in Asia, the sub-Saharan continent’s main challenge is to supply enough energy to its ever-growing population, often via aging and mismanaged infrastructures, and in a context of slow modernization and chaotic urbanization. Indeed, the production of energy is well below demand. Added to this is the fact that energy supply is essential to economic development, and yet the lack of efficient infrastructures, specifically regarding access to power, hinders Africa’s economic development. There is, for instance, very little incentive for private companies to invest in this field.