Despite slightly dropping in popularity in the next 50 and 90 years, gas will dominate among traditional energy sources, comprising approximately 24% and 21% of total energy balance, respectively. Solar energy will prevail over other clean sources, comprising over a quarter of the total energy balance by the beginning of next century, experts believe.
This year marks 15 years will since the Global Energy Prize was established, which on a yearly basis recognizes outstanding achievements in energy research and technology all over the world. To mark the occasion, the Global Energy Association has presented their outlook report entitled “Global Energy of the Future: Perspectives and Development of the World Fuel and Energy Balance” at the 2017 Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. A number of renowned energy experts have contributed to the report, including Global Energy Laureates.
According the report, in the next 50 years, traditional energy sources will continue to play a key role in the global energy balance, however, the influence of oil and coal will diminish soon thereafter, due to a reduction in production and a shift to cleaner sources, totalling 2.1% and 0.9% of the balance by the beginning of the next century, respectively. Having said that, gas - also a traditional source - will retain its key position, slightly dropping from 27.5% in 15 years to 23.6% in 50 years, ultimately comprising 21.2% of the energy balance. Gas is seen as one of most environmentally-friendly traditional energy sources; hence the global shift to clean energy should not significantly affect its leading positions.
Michael Graetzel, Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and Director of the Laboratory for Photonics and Interfaces, the Global Energy Prize laureate of 2017: “Natural gas, along with renewables, are the big winners in the race to meet energy demand growth at least until year 2040. Therefore, academic research should focus on these areas. The growth of world population to 12 billion by year 2100 will entail a substantial increase in energy demand. Consumption will double if the Paris Agreement to restrict the global warming to 2°C is fully implemented. In the next 15 to 90 years we shall see a phasing out of coal and oil. Natural gas will replace these fossil resources since it has the least effect on global warming and is still abundantly available”.
On the other hand, solar energy will take up key positions among renewable sources of energy. From 7.4% in 2035 its share its share will grow by 2,5 times by 2065 and will eventually exceed a quarter of the total energy balance by year 2100. The share is quite significant, especially when comparing with other renewables, such as wind power (12.8%), hydropower (9.4%) and geothermal energy (1.1%) by the same time period. Experts express a general consensus that advances in energy efficiency technologies, particularly with solar power, will allow to produce low-cost energy grids to satisfy a growing demand.
Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), member of the International Global Energy Award Committee: “IRENA’s analysis predicts that technological innovations and new business models will reduce the costs of producing electricity from renewable mini-grids by more than 60% in the next two decades. Meanwhile, our study on the Solar Photovoltaic System (PV) in Africa finds that small PV systems for single households can now provide basic electricity services for as little as USD 56 a year, a cost similar or lower to diesel‑fired generation or kerosene-based conventional lighting, which also have severe health consequences. As a consequence, the Agency has observed rapidly growing private sector involvement in the off-grid sector that relies on innovative business models and technology solutions”.
In conclusion, a trend toward more advanced and environmentally-friendly energy sources will be evident in the near future. Coal and oil will be phased out by solar energy, although natural gas will still remain relevant at least until the beginning of the next century. Publishing results from such expert collaborations is vital, since it can serve as a base for formulating energy policies of national governments and the world community for years to come.