Depending on who you ask, the world’s seven billionth baby has already joined us or intends to arrive around 2013 (no pressure). Whether or not that global population milestone has been reached, one thing is certain — the more of us here on Earth, the more energy we’re all going to need.
While the basic math of more-people-equals-more-energy is pretty simple, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2011 edition of its World Energy Outlook goes much deeper, putting those extra energy consumers into real terms.
According to the report’s “New Policies Scenario,” where governments introduce new but cautious energy policies, primary energy demand is forecast to increase by one-third between 2010 and 2035 or 1.2 percent every year. Non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries are pegged to account for 93 percent of this growth, with the largest non-OECD country, China, using about 70 percent more energy than the United States by 2035. In fact, China is already the world’s largest total energy consumer, even though the U.S. uses more energy per capita.
One thing that isn’t expected to change dramatically, according to the IEA, is the use of fossil fuels. Oil is forecast to continue as the dominant fuel in the world’s energy mix, though hydrocarbons are expected to fall to 75 percent by 2035 from about 81 percent today. Renewables, meanwhile, are slated to increase their share of the mix to 18 percent in 2035 from 15 percent today. Energy also won’t be cheap. In fact, the IEA predicts oil prices reaching $120 per barrel (in 2010 dollars) by 2035.
It appears humans may be more adept at reproducing (a population of nine billion expected by 2043, according to the United Nations) than we are at developing new and efficient energy solutions. Change will come, but for the next 25 years, if the IEA view holds true, we’re going to be using the same sources we’ve come to rely on for the past several decades, including energy from Canada’s oil sands.
We think the key to meeting our future energy challenges is rooted in increased and improved dialogue to help ensure that together we create solutions that enhance social and economic benefits for society, while minimizing environmental impacts.