DNV GL issued its Energy Outlook report for 2017, to provide an understanding of the energy future, emphasizing that, over the next three decades, the world’s energy system will decarbonize and change in many ways.
- 2015-2020 : The world will undoubtedly experience a rapid energy transition, driven by electrification, boosted by a strong growth of wind and solar power generation, and further decarbonization of the energy system, including the decline in coal, oil, and gas, in that order.
- 2020 : The world will manage the shift to a renewable future without increasing energy expenditures; the future energy system will require a smaller share of Gross World Product (GWP) than at present.
- 2020-2025 : Coal use has already peaked, oil will peak within the next 10 years and gas in 20 years, but gas remains the biggest single source of energy for the world through to 2050.
- 2025 : Primary energy supply will peak in 2025, as electricity grows its share of the energy mix and losses are reduced through the accelerated uptake of efficient renewable sources.
- 2030 : Energy demand will plateau after 2030, mainly owing to efficiencies in the generation and use of energy — even as the world makes steady progress with UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #7 (ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all).
- 2030-2040 : Electric vehicle take-up will be rapid and extensive — by 2033 half of new passenger cars sold globally will be zero emission.
- 2040-2050 : The energy transition will be experienced unevenly across the world. Regional energy transitions look very different: e.g. India joining China as a renewable ’superpower’; fossil-fuel dominant regions like the Middle East and Russia experiencing relatively slow transition.
- 2050 : Renewable energy — notably wind and solar PV — holds the most potential for cost-competitiveness. Even so, fossil fuel will still comprise around half of the total energy supply in 2050.
- 2050- : Total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2050 will be around half of today’s level.
This outlook predicts that humanity will collectively start using less energy in the coming decades. Even so, the emissions associated with the forecast will not bring the planet within the so-called 2 °C target — the maximum level of warming above pre-industrial levels agreed upon in Paris, 2015.
CO2 will continue to be emitted to the atmosphere long after 2050. Simple extrapolation suggests that the first emission free year will only occur in 2090.
While it is confidently concluded that the outlook does not place the world on the path contemplated by the Paris Agreement, there are reservations about citing a definitive warming figure because there are considerable uncertainties associated with such calculations, both energy-related uncertainties (including the inherent uncertainties in our forecast) and non-energy related.
“We nevertheless hazard an estimate that our forecast points towards 2.5 °C planetary warming by the end of the century. We also explore ways to ’close the gap’ between our forecast and the kind of future envisioned by the parties to the Paris Agreement. For example, a much higher carbon price may stimulate a greater carbon capture and storage effort, or further policy support could boost the growth of renewable energy.”
However, the main conclusion is that ’closing the gap’ will require a mix of extraordinary measures working in synchrony.
The full report can be downloaded here.