IEA Chief Economist launches World Energy Outlook in Korea

15 February 2012

With concerns about global economic uncertainty diverting attention from energy policies, the IEA’s Chief Economist used a trip to Korea to highlight some key energy-related trends which are pointing in "worrying directions".

Dr. Fatih Birol – who presented analysis from the IEA’s flagship publication World Energy Outlook 2011 (WEO) at two events in Seoul on 10 February – noted that carbon dioxide emissions have rebounded to a record high, energy efficiency of the global economy has worsened for a second straight year, and spending on oil imports is near record highs.

During his visit to Seoul, Dr Birol stressed that:

  • Diversity of global oil supply is diminishing, while new options are opening up for natural gas;
  • Coal has underpinned growth, but its future will be shaped by uptake of efficient power plants as well as Carbon Capture and Storage;
  • Any big shift away from nuclear power would increase import bills, threaten energy security and make it harder to combat climate change; and
  • Despite steps in the right direction, the door to limiting the temperature rise to 2°C is closing.

The first presentation was hosted and jointly organised by the Korea Energy Economics Institute and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Those attending the event included Dr. Su-yeong Yang, Senior Executive Vice President of Daewoo International; Mr. Ki-hwa Lee, Vice President of SK Innovation; and Mr. Kyung-hoon Lee, Vice President of POSCO.

The question and answer session that followed this presentation focused largely on the key factors that could result in a more prominent role for natural gas in the global energy mix, and the implications for other fuels and energy security. There was also a significant interest in WEO analysis on nuclear energy and climate change.

Dr. Birol then presented findings to the Presidential Committee on Green Growth. This presentation had been requested by Dr. Soogil Young, Co-Chair of the Committee and a former OECD ambassador, and was attended by about 20 members of the Committee and the Global Green Growth Institute. The subsequent question and answer session focused on climate change and renewable sources of energy.