Renewables miss out on energy bonanza
A new US government report predicts that world energy consumption will grow by 50% by 2015 while, during the same time period, global emissions of carbon dioxide will increase by an even higher 54%. The report was published by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), part of the US Department of Energy, on May 16.
By 2015, the EIA says demand in developing countries will grow by 77%, while demand from members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) should rise by 27%. According to these estimates, energy demand in developing countries will be 16% above that of OECD members within two decades. The EIA also predicts that the demand will be met largely by conventional fuels because of low prices. Consumption of energy from renewables -- mainly hydroelectricity but with some wind, geothermal, solar and biomass -- should rise by 66% by 2015. But this increase is from a small base and renewables will account for just a small proportion of all energy used if business continues as usual, states the EIA.
Oil will remain the dominant fuel worldwide for the next 20 years, with its consumption expected to up by 44%, or about 30 million barrels daily, to 99 million barrels a day in 2015. Because of low prices, natural gas should have the fastest growth in consumption at 69%, with demand expected to reach 133.3 trillion cubic feet by the same year. In fact, natural gas consumption should equal coal's by that time, says the EIA.
Coal consumption is predicted to rise by 46% over the next two decades, primarily for electricity generation worldwide, while nuclear power use should drop by 6%, largely because of retirement of plants in developed countries. That should be partially offset by growth in countries just starting their nuclear programmes, mostly in Asia. The EIA says environmental concerns should make renewable energy increasingly attractive, but fossil fuel prices will stay low enough to hinder wider use of renewables under current policies.
Developing countries should consume almost as much oil as OECD countries by 2015, increasing consumption by 87% versus a projected 18% rise in OECD countries. Developing countries' coal demand should rise by 63%, especially in Asia. Demand for natural gas in developing countries should jump 82%, while in OECD countries by 57%.
In an immediate response, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) calls for the use of more clean energy technologies such as wind because of the threat of global warming. "We need to take decisive action nowÉ oil shortages will threaten our energy security again [if we do not]," warns AWEA's Tom Gray.