Energy has evolved from wood, to whale oil, to coal, to petroleum and to nuclear, and now the global economy desperately needs to move towards the vast promise of continuous renewable energy. There are many who believe that wind and solar, in particular, are the next step in the evolution of energy.

The strength of the economic recovery holds the key to how energy markets will evolve over the next few years. With the inevitable expiration of workable fossil fuel supplies and the escalating costs of providing energy from them, renewable energy is the only logical and economical solution.

“The energy world is facing unprecedented uncertainty,” said Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). “We need to use energy more efficiently and we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by adopting technologies that leave a much smaller carbon footprint.”

According to the IEA’s New Policies Scenario – which takes account of the commitments and plans announced by countries around the world — world primary energy demand increases by 36% between 2008 and 2035, or 1.2% per year on average. The assumed policies make a tangible difference to energy trends: demand grew by 2% per year over the previous 27-year period.

“We have taken governments at their word, in assuming that they will actually implement the policies and measures, albeit in a cautious manner, to ensure that the goals they have set are met,” Tanaka said.

China Leads Efforts in New Energy Usage
China is at the forefront of efforts to increase the share of new low-carbon energy technologies, including alternative vehicles, which will help to drive down their costs through faster rates of technology learning and economies of scale, and boost their deployment worldwide.

“It is hard to overstate the growing importance of China in global energy. How the country responds to the threats to global energy security and climate posed by rising fossil-fuel use will have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the world,” said IEA’s Mr. Tanaka.

Non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries account for 93% of the projected increase in world primary energy demand. China – which IEA data suggests overtook the United States in 2009 to become the world’s largest energy user despite its low per capita energy use – contributes 36% to the projected growth in global energy use.
Globally, fossil fuels remain dominant over the next 30 years, though their share of the overall usage falls due to the introduction of renewable energy sources and nuclear power.

Oil Still King
Oil nonetheless remains the leading fuel in the energy mix by 2035, followed by coal. Of the three fossil fuels, gas consumption grows most rapidly, its share of total energy use almost reaching that of coal.

Oil prices are set to rise, reflecting the growing insensitivity of both demand and supply to price. According to IEA statistics, crude oil prices rise from just over $60 in 2009 to $113 per barrel (in year-2009 dollars) in 2035. Oil demand continues to grow steadily, reaching about 99 million barrels per day (mb/d) by 2035, 15 mb/d higher than in 2009.

“Renewable energy can play a central role in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and diversifying energy supplies, but only if strong and sustained support is made available”, Mr. Tanaka said.

Mr. Tanaka points out that global primary energy use triples between 2008 and 2035 and their combined share in total primary energy demand increases from 7% to 14%.

Rising demand for fossil fuels will continue to drive up energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions through to 2035, making it all but impossible to achieve the 2°C goal, as the required reductions in emissions after 2020 would be too steep.