The world in 33 years, 2050: 9.2 billion people live on the planet, 1.7 billion more than today. They produce at least twice as much good and service – but at the same time consume hardly any more energy than they do now.
Global energy consumption peaks as early as 2030, but has been declining ever since. Coal, oil and gas still provide half of the world’s supply, but they are long past their prime and their share is shrinking.
New cars all over the world are usually powered by electricity, internal combustion engines for oil and gas-based fuels are only used in ships and airplanes. CO2 emissions from energy are half of what they are today.
This is the scenario that the international technical group DNV GL has sketched out in a study that was presented in london. The company, headquartered in oslo, employs more than 13,500 people who inspect and analyze industrial plants, power stations, ships and other technical objects around the world. A large part has to do with energy in one way or another.
"Electrification and electromobility will play a key role in fundamentally changing the way energy is supplied," says andreas schroter, managing director of DNV GL’s german energy division, based in hamburg, germany. In 2050, humanity will consume 430 exajoules of energy – that’s a number with 18 zeros and only seven percent more than today.
Electricity accounts for 40 percent of this, compared with the current 18 percent. And 85 percent of that electricity is produced from renewable sources, primarily solar and wind power.
DNV GL’s experts see three factors that will determine mankind’s energy future. The world’s population is growing more slowly, and so is the economy. And renewable energy is becoming cheaper and more efficient, both in production and consumption. "Electric cars use energy better," says schroter. Electrification, for example of residential heating systems and vehicles, will increase the efficiency of the entire energy sector.
Electricity will be plentiful and cheap in the future, DNV GL experts believe. "Charging for the e-mobiles will be more or less free for drivers," says schroter.
Experts are hoping for advances that are not yet foreseeable, but that can be observed in the development of offshore wind energy, for example. This is already partially competitive. "With many small changes, electrification is creating its own technological biotope."
Forecasts over more than three decades are subject to high uncertainties. This is also known to the experts from DNV GL, who have designed a complex model for their prediction. Other forecasts, not all of which extend so far into the future, arrive at different results in part because they expect higher growth in population and economic power, for example, as well as fewer savings.
But even DNV GL’s comparatively optimistic vision of the future does not offer any relief for climate policy. According to the study, the permissible CO2 budget for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees since the beginning of industrialization will have been exceeded by 2023.
The highest possible CO2 levels for the 2-degree target will be reached in 2045, and emissions will continue until 2090. By the end of the century, global temperatures will have risen by 2.5 degrees, with serious consequences for the climate and the environment.