The world energy outlook through 2060: Three scenarios to three different futures

December 16, 2016

Electricity generation through power linesThe global energy outlook presented in a report from the World Energy Council is really three different views of the future. World Energy Scenarios 2016: The Grand Transition describes the current global energy sector as being on the cusp of dramatic transformation impacting the global energy sector. Three different exploratory scenarios offer a unique way to think about and discuss what electricity generation could look like over the next 40+ years.

What sets this report apart from a more simple, linear analysis is the WEC’s introduction of three plausible scenarios showing different pathways to a global energy sector future. Each scenario examines how decisions made today can impact how we balance future energy and sustainability needs. The WEC describes this balancing act as the “trilemma” of sustainable energy.

One of the key findings presented highlights the phenomenal rise in solar energy, which, the WEC says, will continue at an unprecedented rate. According to the report, solar and wind energy contributed 4% of total power generation in 2014. By 2060, that number will climb to between 20% and 39% (depending on which scenario prevails).

Another key finding is that the demand for electricity will likely double by 2060. Solar energy will help feed the next generation’s increased appetite to power its technology-enabled urban lifestyle.

The impact of disruptive technology also underscores much of the report. In the energy outlook presented, solar is expected to be a significant disruptor to traditional power producers. As the benefits of solar power for business continue to rise, utilities will experience a diminished ability to capture a significant portion of new power demands.

These predictions and more are backed by the three-year efforts of a network of more than 70 WEC members from over 25 countries. Predictions are quantified using a global multi-regional energy system model.

The full report is available as a download for those looking for in-depth information. An executive summary provides an overview of the report’s findings. Both help to recalibrate how we view and discuss the future of global energy.


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