The world's energy use will jump 44 percent in the next twenty years, with capacity for renewables growing at the fastest rate, according to a new energy forecast by the Energy Information Agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy.
82 percent of the growth will originate in developing nations, says the agency, with Brazil, Russia, India, and China accounting for two-thirds of that demand.
Alternatives to fossil fuels, primarily hydropower and wind power, will be the fastest-growing sector of the energy industry worldwide, the agency forecasts.
As the global economy recovers in the next 12 to 24 months, energy use will pick up at rates projected before the current recession, according to the EIA's newly released International Energy Outlook 2009 (IEO). The forecast projects global energy use rising from 472 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2006, to 552 quadrillion Btu in 2015, and to 678 quadrillion Btu in 2030.
The fastest pace of alternative energy growth will be in developing nations, which will close to double their hydropower generating capacity, from 1.7 percent in 2006 to 3.4 percent in 2030, and increase wind generation from virtually zero at present, to 0.1 percent by 2015 and 0.4 percent by 2030. Other renewables will hit around 0.2 percent of total capacity in developing nations by that time.
Compared to this, the developed nations are expected to increase hydropower more modestly, from 1.3 to 1.5 percent by 2030. However, industrialized nations will likely make a much bigger gains in wind power generation -- from 0.1 percent in 2006 to 0.8 percent in 2030. Other alternative energies will grow from 0.2 to 0.5 percent of total electricity capacity.
But given the small space renewables currently occupy in total energy capacity, the increase will be very modest overall: from 19 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2030. Based on current trends and policies, coal and natural gas will still fuel nearly two-thirds of the world's electricity generation; and around 80 percent of the world's total energy market will be supplied by fossil fuels.
Coal-fired power will grow about one percent, from 27 percent in 2005 to 28 percent of the world's total in 2030.
As for oil and other liquid fuels, supply from "unconventional sources" including both biofuels and oil sands will grow at a much faster rate than fossil liquid fuels, from roughly 3 percent of the supply at present to 13 percent by 2030.
The agency bases its forecast for alternative energy growth on current government incentives to develop alternative energy, as well as mandates for more fuel-efficient cars and energy-efficient appliances. It also factors intensifying concerns about climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions into the mix, along with its projections for high energy prices. Oil prices are likely to hit $130 a barrel (in 2007 dollars) by 2030, the EIA projects.
Still, based on current policies, developing nations will drive a 39 percent hike in global, energy-related emissions of climate-altering carbon dioxide, the IEO suggests, from 29.1 billion metric tons in 2005 to 40.4 billion metric tons in 2030.
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