World power shortage coming

Demand for oil and gas for power generation is set to outstrip supply faster than expected, according to a new report published by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). Wind is the technology best placed to fill the looming energy gap, it concludes. The report, "Plugging the Gap -- A survey of world fuel resources and their impact on the development of wind energy", is based on research by Renewable Energy Systems Ltd (RES).

It takes issue with the International Energy Agency's prediction that that 60% of the world's energy supply will still come from oil and gas by 2030. RES maintains that the agency's estimates are based on unreliable and over-optimistic forecasts by the US Geological Survey. Records of actual global oil and gas discoveries suggest that oil production will peak in eight years, while gas is likely to peak in 2030.

Meantime, energy demand is growing rapidly; the world is already consuming more than three times as much oil as is being discovered and has used up around half of global oil resources. And by 2030 demand for gas will have doubled and will outstrip supply, creating a gap equivalent to the combined production of Europe and the former Soviet Union, with gas prices rising steeply before then.

A gap between oil and gas supplies and demand will open up from 2010, leading to a shortfall of 10% of global energy demand by 2020 and 18% by 2030, the report predicts. Moreover, gas supplies will be able to meet only 400 GW of the 1600 GW of new electricity generation planned to 2030.

Even before accounting for the changed market dynamics that will result as the gap between gas generation and demand widens, GWEC forecasts that more than 1000 GW of wind can be installed globally by 2020 with the right policies in place. Wind will be up against a range of technologies competing for the new market that Plugging the Gap uncovers. But as a cost effective, reliable and clean technology, wind is ready, says Ian Mays of RES. "Wind power technologies are working successfully all over the world and with foresight and appropriate policy frameworks there is enough resource to roll out wind power on a huge scale."

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