Sustainable Energy

Oil and coal demand could peak by 2020: Study

Coal falls off a conveyer belt at the Savage Energy Terminal in Price, Utah.
Getty Images

A drop in the cost of solar and electric vehicle technology could see demand for coal and oil peaking by 2020, according to a new report from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

The analysis cautions that large energy companies adopting a "business as usual" attitude are underestimating the advances of low carbon technologies.

The report proposes a new 'starting point' scenario that takes in cost reduction projections for electric vehicles and solar photovoltaic technology, as well as emissions commitments made under the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

The research sees, among other things: solar photovoltaic technology providing 29 percent of global power generation by 2050, phasing out coal in the process; electric vehicles making up more than two thirds of the road transport market by 2050; and demand for coal and oil peaking by 2020.

Furthermore, growth in electric vehicles could result in the displacement of around two million barrels of oil per day by 2025 and 25 million barrels per day by 2050.

"Electric vehicles and solar power are game-changers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates," Luke Sussams, senior researcher at Carbon Tracker, said in a statement.

"Further innovation could make our scenarios look conservative in five years' time, in which case the demand misread by companies will have been amplified even more," Sussams added.