WEC World Energy Scenarios report highlights massive challenges to achieving harmony in the energy system

World Energy Congress, Daegu, Korea, 14 October 2013: The world is set to face several significant challenges in balancing global energy needs in addressing the energy trilemma over the next four decades, according to the report, ”World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050”, released today by the World Energy Council at its triennial event, the 2013 World Energy Congress, in Daegu, Korea.

Total primary energy supply is set to increase to 2050 by between 61% and 27%, with fossil fuels remaining the dominant energy source supplying between 77% and 59% of the global primary energy mix.

The report’s conclusions follow a three-year study conducted by over 60 experts from nearly 30 countries, with modelling provided by the Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland’s largest research centre for natural and engineering sciences. The report assesses two contrasting policy scenarios, the more consumer-driven Jazz scenario and the more voter-driven Symphony scenario, with a key differentiator being the ability of countries to pass through the Doha Climate Gateway.  The WEC scenarios use an explorative approach to assess what is actually happening in the world now, to help gauge what will happen in the future and the real impact of today’s choices on tomorrow’s energy landscape.

Rob Whitney, the New Zealand based Chair of the World Energy Scenarios report, said: “We have been able to bring together an unparalleled team to work on these unique explorative scenarios. Rather than telling policymakers and senior energy leaders what to do in order to achieve a specific policy goal, the WEC’s World Energy Scenarios will allow them to test the key assumptions that they decide to better shape the energy of tomorrow. That’s why these findings are so powerful.”

Under Jazz, total primary energy supply could increase by 61% by 2050, while under Symphony these supplies could rise by only 27%, thus highlighting the impact that choosing one policy solutions or the other can have on the energy sector.

While the share of renewable energy sources in the global energy mix will record the biggest growth to reach 20%in Jazz and 30%in Symphony by 2050, both scenarios show that fossil fuels will remain the dominant resource in the future, accounting for 77% in Jazz and 59% in Symphony.

Transport fuels almost double in Jazz with much of the increase coming from conventional fuels and a switch to natural gas. In Symphony the increase is only 20% with most of the increase being biofuels and electricity.

By 2050, the use of solar for electricity generation is set to increase by up to 225 times over 2010 levels.  Currently solar power only accounts for just over 34 TWh/y in the electricity generation mix, but it could provide somewhere between 2,980 TWh and 7,740 TWh in 2050. This equates to between US$2,950 billion and US$9,660 billion of investment in solar, representing the largest potential investment area of any renewable energy resource.

In order to cater to the rising electricity needs generated by economic development to 2050, the WEC estimates that the world will need to invest from US$19 trillion in Jazz to over US$25 trillion in Symphony for electricity generation alone, with the majority of investments required being directed towards solar PV, hydro and wind. Overall, global electricity generation capacity could increase by a slightly higher amount in Jazz than in Symphony, but in Jazz there would be much less investment in renewable electricity generation.

Karl Rose, Senior Director, Policies and Scenarios at the World Energy Council, said: “While there will be opportunities in the future for a range of technology solutions, the ultimate issue is that demand continues to grow at an unsustainable rate. One of the most significant findings in the report is the strong regional variation of priorities and solutions in the energy system. Too often we look at the world as one entity and seek global solutions but the reality is very different and this needs to be recognised.”

While both scenarios see a significant increase in energy access, the rate of increase will remain insufficient. Globally, between 730 million and 880 million people will still be without access to electricity in 2030, predominantly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and this figure would only decrease to 319 million and 530 million people in 2050, according to the report.

The African continent will face the biggest electrification challenge. Asia will account for the largest percentage of total primary energy consumption by 2050, at 48% under Jazz and 45% under Symphony. This compares to around 30% in both Jazz and Symphony for Europe and North America and underlines the major differences that regional priorities will take in building sustainable energy futures.

In terms of curbing CO2 emissions, the Symphony scenario sees the world being able to decrease CO2 emissions to 490-535 parts per million (ppm) by 2050. In contrast, the Jazz scenario will see emissions reach 590-710 ppm over the same period. Both emissions levels are in excess of the 450 ppm CO2 target adopted by many. A significant reduction of CO2 emissions is possible after 2020 in the Symphony scenario; however, it still leaves the emissions almost at double the amount with regards to the objective of halving emissions compared to 1990 levels.

The WEC further sees that at worst, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be up to four times higher than the objective of halving emissions compared to 1990 levels.

Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the World Energy Council, concluded: “At a time of unprecedented uncertainty these Scenarios provide a stark warning to our energy future. Jazz and Symphony highlight the need for clear and robust policy frameworks that reduce political risk, the need for urgent focus in technology development and demonstration in electricity storage and CCS, and the need to manage our carbon budget and minimise our water footprint.  Our findings challenge our understanding of and current ability to deliver the resilient infrastructure that we need to face the changes we expect to occur over the coming decades.”

At the World Energy Congress the World Energy Council has also confirmed that Ged Davis, President and CEO of Forescene, will succeed Rob Whitney who has served as Executive Chair of the World Energy Scenarios since the last World Energy Congress. Davis will oversee the next phase of the study as the WEC rolls out its open-source Scenarios project and will guide a range of deep-dive assessments.

The full findings of the “World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050” study are made available free of charge via the World Energy Council’s website www.worldenergy.org/publications.