The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released their International Energy Outlook 2016 assessment recently. In it, they take a look at how global energy consumption will change by 2040, and where we’ll get the majority of our energy, along with which sources will grow the fastest. So do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. According to their projections, we’ll still be fairly dependent on oil and petroleum in 2040, especially in developing countries working to build. Overall “the liquids share of world marketed energy consumption” could decline, but only from 33 percent in 2012 to an estimated 30 percent in 2040. Energy from coal will “plateau” but will still grow by 0.6 percent each year, accounting for 28 to 29 percent of “global power generation” in 2040. At least that’s down from 40 percent in 2012.
Now the good news. According to the EIA, renewable energy sources will be the “fastest-growing” resources during the next few decades, with hydropower and wind as the front runners. In 2040, we could get 28 to 29 percent of power from renewables, but that figure includes natural gas as well. Nuclear will comprise the remainder.
This diverse profile combined with targeted policies could mean carbon emissions don’t soar as fast as our energy use. While global energy use could almost double by 2040, our carbon emissions might not. In 2012, global carbon dioxide emissions were at 36 billion metric tons. In 2040, the EIA predicts they’ll be at 43 billion metric tons.
It’s important to note these are all just projections, and controversial ones at that. Oil Change International’s Campaigns Director David Turnbull said, “We all know that we’re moving in a different direction now. The Paris Agreement was a clear indication that the fossil fuel era was ending. To make a projection that ignores some of these major shifts in public opinion, in energy markets, in renewable energy policy, is leaving out a big piece of the picture.”
An EIA spokesperson said they did attempt to take the Paris agreement into account, but do not yet know how the goals will be enacted through policy. Will the EIA ultimately be correct? It’s up to us to work toward the goal of a future built on clean energy.