No big surprise, but energy demand will continue to grow… “how” is the interesting part.
Originally a LinkedIn post by Scott Nyquist, McKinsey&Company
Edited and Updated by Scott Muster, Turbine Technology Services
The successful outcome of COP21 has raised hopes and expectations of concerted global efforts to tackle climate change, and brought forward a whole raft of challenging questions:
- How will this affect the momentum behind the deployment of key renewable technologies and the drive for greater energy efficiency?
- Ample supply is keeping downward pressure on fossil fuel prices, coal, oil and natural gas. When and how will market dynamics change – or might lower prices for some fuels be here to stay?
- The impact of local pollution, often energy-related, on air quality is a matter of rising social and political concern in many countries. How can governments act to tackle this problem – and what would these actions mean for the energy sector?
The World Energy Outlook 2016 published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) is coming out this month and will seek to shed some light on these questions with insightful analysis. In the meantime, there is one matter that everyone can agree on: for the near future, energy demand will continue to grow. How it is produced and used will be a critical factor in the future of the global economy, geopolitics, and the environment.
With that in mind, McKinsey took a hard look at the data, modeling energy demand by country, sector, and fuel mix, with an analysis of current conditions, historical data, and country-level assessments. On this basis, McKinsey’s Global Energy Insights team has put together a description of the global energy landscape to 2050.
It is important to understand that this is a business-as-usual scenario. It does not anticipate big disruptions in either the production or use of energy. And, of course, predicting the future of fraught with risk. Here are four of the most interesting insights.
- Global energy demand will continue to grow.
But growth will be slower—an average of about 0.7 percent a year through 2050 (versus an average of more than 2 percent from 2000 to 2015). The decline in the rate of growth is due to digitization, slower population and economic growth, greater efficiency, a decline in European and North American demand, and the global economic shift toward services, which use less energy than the production of goods. For example, in India, the percentage of GDP derived from services is expected to rise from 54 to 64 percent by 2035. And efficiency is a forthright good-news story. By 2035, McKinsey research expects that it will take almost 40 percent less fuel to propel a fossil-fueled car a mile than it does now. By 2050, global “energy intensity” (how much energy is used to produce each unit of GDP) will be half what it was in 2013. That may sound optimistic, but it is based on recent history. From 1990 to 2015, global energy intensity improved by almost a third, and it is reasonable to expect the rate of progress to accelerate.
- Demand for electricity will grow twice as fast as that for transport.
China and India will account for 71 percent of new capacity. By 2050, electricity will account for a quarter of all energy demand, compared with 18 percent now. How will that additional power be generated? More than three-quarters of new capacity (77 percent), per the McKinsey research, will come from wind and solar, 13 percent from natural gas, and the rest from everything else. The share of nuclear and hydro is also expected to grow, albeit modestly.
What that means is that by 2050, non-hydro renewables will account for more than a third of global power generation—a huge increase from the 2014 level of 6 percent. To put it another way, between now and 2050, wind and solar are expected to grow four to five times faster than every other source of power.
- Fossil fuels will dominate energy use through 2050.
This is because of the massive investments that have already been made and because of the superior energy intensity and reliability of fossil fuels. The mix, however, will change. Gas will continue to grow quickly, but the global demand for coal will likely peak around 2025. Growth in the use of oil, which is predominantly used for transport, will slow down as vehicles get more efficient and more electric; here, peak demand could come as soon as 2030. By 2050, the research estimates that coal will be down to just 16 percent of global power generation (from 41 percent now) and fossil fuels to 38 percent (from 66 percent now). Overall, though, coal, oil, and, gas will continue to be 74 percent of primary energy demand, down from 82 percent now. After that, the rate of decline is likely to accelerate.
- Energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions will rise 14 percent in the next 20 years.
Of course, this is not what needs to happen to keep the planet from warming another two degrees, the goal of the 2015 Paris climate conference. Around 2035, though, emissions will flatten and then fall, for two main reasons. First, cars and trucks will be cleaner, due to more efficient engines and the deployment of electric vehicles. Second, there is the shift in the power industry toward gas and renewables discussed above. The countervailing trends are that there are likely to be some 1.5 billion more people by 2035, and global GDP will rise by about half over that period. All those people will need to eat and work, and that means more energy.
Here are the disclaimers:
- All the above is based on assumptions and subject to change.
- A concerted global action complying with COP21 guidelines to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions could change the arc of these trends.
- Technological disruptions and innovative developments could also bend the curve.
- The IEA may see different outlooks.
Whether you agree with the predictions outlined in this report or not, for energy businesses, the implications are clear: given that global energy demand will grow substantially, prices will continue to be volatile.
To reduce related risks and costs associated to the volatility, energy efficiency while mitigating the effects on the environment is a mandate. Energy producers and technological engineering companies like TTS will need to continue working closely together on innovations that can affect the efficiency of producing energy for the world.
For more information about TTS and our energy innovations, visit TTS Energy Services.