Energy consumption to escalate

July 30, 2013
World energy consumption will jump 56% in the next 30 years, driven by growing demand in developing countries, the US Energy Information Administration recently reported in its International Energy Outlook 2013.

World energy consumption will jump 56% in the next 30 years, driven by growing demand in developing countries, the US Energy Information Administration recently reported in its International Energy Outlook 2013.

Rising prosperity in China and India will be a major driver. “These two countries combined account for half the world’s total increase in energy use through 2040,” said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski. “This will have a profound effect on the development of world energy markets.” World energy consumption is expected to jump to 820 quadrillion btu (quads) in 2040 from 524 quads in 2010.

The EIA projects increased consumption of all fuel sources through 2040. Fossil fuels are expected to continue supplying much of the energy used worldwide. Renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, each increasing 2.5%/year, EIA said.

Fossil fuels to lead

Fossil fuels have a major head start in global energy markets and are projected still to supply almost 80% of world energy through 2040. Petroleum and other liquids remain the largest supply source of energy, but liquid fuels’ market share is projected to decline to 28% by 2040 from 34% in 2010.

Natural gas is the fastest growing fossil fuel, with global consumption projected to increase 1.7%/year, creating an international market for gas similar to the world oil market. Discovery and development of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane support a bigger market share for gas.

Coal consumption is projected to grow faster than liquid fuels consumption past 2030 because of China’s growing demand for coal and “tepid growth” in liquid fuels demand, which EIA attributes to sustained high oil prices and slow economic growth among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The spot market price of North Sea Brent crude averaged $112/bbl in 2012 and is projected by EIA to average $105/bbl this year and decrease to $100/bbl in 2014. The price of Brent is expected to increase in the long term, however, with the world price at $106/bbl in 2020 and $163/bbl in 2040, as measured in 2011 dollars.

Despite current policies and regulations limiting use of fossil fuel, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions around the world are projected to rise to 36 billion tonnes in 2020 from 31 billion tonnes in 2010, hitting 45 billion tonnes in 2040, a 46% jump over 30 years, EIA said.

Wind, water, and atoms

Wind and hydropower will account for almost 80% of EIA’s projected increase in renewable electricity generation by 2040. The contribution of wind energy, in particular, has grown rapidly over the past decade and is projected to continue into the future. Of the 5.4 trillion kw-hr of renewable generation to be added in 30 years, EIA expects hydroelectric power will contribute 52% with wind making up the other 28%, indicating a rapid increase in wind power. Most of the growth in hydroelectric generation (82%) will be in countries outside the OECD, while more than half of the increase in wind generation (52%) will be among OECD members.

EIA figures electricity generated by nuclear power plants will increase to 5.5 trillion kw-hrs in 2040 from 2.6 trillion kw-hr. EIA officials assume concern over energy security and greenhouse gas emissions will support development of new nuclear generating capacity.

But shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, the German government vowed to shut down within 10 years its nuclear capability which then produced almost 20% of Germany’s energy. That has led German utilities to burn more coal, increasing carbon dioxide emissions for 2 consecutive years. In late July directors of Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineering company, said they would fire Chief Executive Officer Peter Loscher because his expansion into green energy and expensive acquisitions have cut profits.

In the US where nuclear power has been laggard at best, four reactors have closed this year—a record for the industry. The US also is behind Europe in development of wind power from offshore facilities because of public concerns about turbines located close to the coast. Some say offshore turbines would spoil coastal vistas as much as offshore rigs and production platforms.

(Online July 30, 2013; author's e-mail: [email protected])