New technology and stricter policies will transform energy industry as ‘phenomenal’ growth in solar and wind power continues
Global demand for energy per capita will peak in 2030 thanks to new technology and stricter government policies, the World Energy Council has predicted.
In a report on a range of scenarios for global energy use, the group of academics, energy companies and public sector bodies outlined a “fundamentally new world for the energy industry” calling it the “grand transition”.
The report, launched before the World Energy Congress in Istanbul, forecast demand per person for energy – including transport fuels, heating and electricity – would begin to fall after 2030.
Ged Davis, executive chair of scenarios at the World Energy Council, said: “Historically people have talked about peak oil but now disruptive trends are leading energy experts to consider the implications of peak demand.”
But while overall per capita energy demand would begin to fall, demand for electricity would double by 2060, the council said, requiring greater infrastructure investment in smart systems that promote energy efficiency.
The “phenomenal” growth of solar and wind energy is predicted to continue, while coal and oil will fade from the energy mix. Solar and wind accounted for 4% of power generation in 2014 but could supply up to 39% by 2060, while hydroelectric power and nuclear are also expected to grow.
But fossil fuels will remain the number one source of energy, having fallen just 5% since 1970 from 86% of energy supply to 81% in 2014.
The council drew up three scenarios to assess different areas of energy use. The range of outcomes could see fossil fuels provide anything from 50% to 70% of energy by 2060, said the council, which is the UN-accredited global energy body.
Under two of the scenarios, oil production will peak in 2030 at between 94m barrels per day (bpd) and 103 mb/d, although the third scenario would see it peak and plateau at 104 m/bpd for a decade from 2040.
The council said moving from petrol cars to cheaper technologies such as electric vehicles would prove “one of the hardest obstacles to overcome” in efforts to decarbonise global energy use.
Oil powered 92% of vehicles in 2014, but that is expected to fall to between 78% and 60% as electric vehicles become more popular.
But the council warned that keeping global warming below 2Cwould require an “exceptional and enduring effort, far beyond already pledged commitments and with very high carbon prices”.
Its predictions for carbon emissions vary wildly depending on the strength of efforts to tackle the problem, from a reduction of 61% by 2060 to a slight increase of 5%.
Overall, the report’s theme of a grand transition envisages lower population growth, radical new technologies, greater environmental challenges and a shift in economic and geopolitical power.
The report was produced in partnership with consultancy Accenture Strategy and the Paul Scherrer Institute, a research centre in Switzerland.
Last year’s report warned of a threat to global energy networks caused by extreme weather events associated with global warming.