Energy Policy Scenarios to 2050
6.1. Global Observations
It is clear that all the scenarios involve a substantial increase in global energy supplies by 2050 on the order of a 100% increase. To achieve this the WEC standard of keeping all energy options open and on the energy policy table continues to hold true. The energy mix of countries and regions will depend on individual resources and relationships, but all potential resources and trade opportunities need to be addressed against the WEC 3 A's.
It is also apparent that a substantial increase in global energy supplies will take time but can be accomplished in the timeframe of this study with cleaner technologies to underpin a low carbon economy. A low carbon economy does not mean taking fossil fuels off the policy table. It means increasing the efficient production and use of fossil fuels and managing the greenhouse gases which are generated by them.
The participants in this study see population growth as stable or diminishing in every scenario. Economic growth, on the other hand, depends absolutely on high levels of cooperation, and cooperation about energy matters in particular.
Energy intensity decreases so long as there is either cooperation with integration in the private sector or significant government engagement. Obviously, if both are present, energy intensity gains are faster and more significant. Likewise, most study participants see a more diversified mix of energy sources with both cooperation and government engagement.
However, the global energy mix does not evolve in the same way under all scenarios. Important differences of degree and timing need to be understood. There is potential to offset the world's reliance on fossil fuels by an energy mix that uses more nuclear power with adequate waste management, additional hydro resources, and renewables including biomass and biofuels with an affordable, low carbon footprint. Key drivers in all scenarios regarding the potential evolution of the energy mix are efficiency gains from stronger standards for production and end-use choices and a value for carbon which is high enough to affect choices but low enough to avoid harmful costs to growing economies.
TPER increases in all cases initially, with economic growth rates in some scenarios and at some times being counterbalanced by technology-induced reductions in energy intensity. In some areas, this happens late in the study period, as there is little expectation that governments will act rapidly.
Study participants clearly believe that without strong government involvement and cooperation among governments on an international scale, greenhouse gas emissions cannot and will not be controlled. This points to the importance of a post-Kyoto regime.
Economic Activity (GDP)
Energy Intensity (TPER/GDP)
Total Primary Energy Requirement (TPER)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG)
Emissions Intensity (GHG/GDP)
The participants in the study express great hope for renewable energies, but reasonable expectations. Starting from a low base number, these sources will make an important impact but will not dominate any markets in the time period up to 2050. Nuclear power clearly needs strong government engagement to play an increasing role in the energy mix and in reducing climate emissions, but also strong international cooperation for countries that need to master the technology.
Government engagement decreases tension in the oil markets, and when combined with private sector cooperation and integration, the effect is more pronounced. Perhaps surprisingly, private sector cooperation and integration is generally not seen as reducing supply-demand tension, mostly because this is also seen as leading to robust economic growth and thus demand. There is also concern that uncontrolled private initiative may lead to higher prices rather than widespread and accessible supplies. Another factor that may influence oil tension in general is a large reduction in production from the Middle East, whether by design or technical limits.
Tension in gas markets is mixed but seen as increasing in most regions, especially early in the period to 2050 due to both demand and a push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Russia becomes a gas-based economy, which in turn could increase tension, especially in European and Asian markets. In North and Latin America, tension increases early in the period due to demand and then is relieved due to increased exploration after 2035.
Coal may see increased tension late in the period as CTL technologies add significant demand. Up until then, coal, in great supply, seems poised to meet demand on short notice in most of world. Environmental pressure is exerted through governments and can increase tension around coal when demand is high. Tension may be further increased if cost-effective carbon capture and storage technologies become feasible, thereby fostering demand that might otherwise be lost over concerns about climate change.
To the extent that nuclear power grows in response to economic demand and environmental constraints, governments drive it and tension increases in this case because of concerns about infrastructure requirements in what is a complex conversion system. Africa sees strong international cooperation as also being essential for significant nuclear power development.
There is increasing supply-demand tension in all periods in all regions for renewable energy. This reflects that consumers would like much more renewable energy and have it sooner, but concerns about costs, siting of wind turbines, and the net carbon footprint of renewables will keep the tension high.
Non-conventional energy use decreases in most scenarios where it is currently significant (Africa, Latin America, and Asia). This happens earliest in Asia where progress is being made today, and last in Africa where the highest percentage use exists now and where government engagement is least effective.