Future energy demand and supply
Future energy demand and supply

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Future energy demand and supply

2.2.2 Other scenarios: Shell and Greenpeace

In 1995, Shell International Petroleum published two energy-supply scenarios ('Sustained Growth' and 'Dematerialisation'), which contained similar elements to the WEC scenarios. In 2001, however, Shell published two further long-term scenarios: 'Dynamics as Usual' and 'Spirit of the Coming Age' (Shell International, 2001). The former envisages 'an evolutionary progression from coal to oil to gas to renewables (and possibly nuclear)…', whereas the latter is more radical, charting the rise of a new technological system based on hydrogen, aided by developments in fuel cells and sequestration of carbon dioxide. This system, widely known as the hydrogen economy, is described in Section 4.3. Shell's analysis of the global market shares of different fuels in these two scenarios is shown in Figure 10, tracking trends from 1850 through into the future.

Figure 10 Share of primary energy for different fuels in Shell International's energy scenarios (2001). (a) In the 'Dynamics as Usual' scenario, supplies evolve from highto low-carbon fuels and towards electricity as the dominant energy carrier, driven by demands for security, cleanliness and sustainability. (Note: The curves for hydro, nuclear and traditional renewables converge after 2020.) (b) In the 'Spirit of the Coming Age' scenario, supplies evolve from solids through liquids to gas (methane and then hydrogen), supplemented by direct electricity from renewables and nuclear.

Although superficially rather different, the scenarios shown in Figure 10 display several similarities, including a gradual decline in fossil fuels in the 21st century, and a global market share for all renewables of about one-third by 2050. Interestingly, the two earlier Shell scenarios (1995) both predicted a much higher market share (around 50%) for all renewables by 2050, demonstrating how marked changes in forecasts can occur on a relatively short timescale. Another indication of the frailty of forecasts was ironically also provided by Shell, which reduced its own estimates of the company's oil reserves on four separate occasions in 2004, by over 20% overall. Time will tell whether these re-evaluations heralded a hastening of fossil fuel depletion.

One organisation, Greenpeace, spurred by warning signs that conventional energy resources may be unsustainable, commissioned a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute in the early 1990s that proved to be even more optimistic than the preceding examples (Lazarus et al., 1993). With similar assumptions on population increases and economic growth (to allow comparison with other scenarios), the Greenpeace scenario develops to a situation free from fossil fuels by 2100, dominated by solar and wind power (around 75%), with supplementary contributions from biomass, hydropower and geothermal sources. Nuclear power is phased out rapidly (by 2010), whereas the fossil fuels decline gradually through the century. This scenario requires improvements in energy efficiency that actually reduce global demand around 2030, before it rises again towards the end of the century, and hydrogen is used as a transport fuel and to store energy from intermittent sources such as wind.

In all these 'scenario-based' forecasts, as well as the tendency for the 'unthinkable' to happen (as it commonly does — Figure 7), it is important to temper such predictions by bearing in mind the difficulties with adopting alternative energy resources. Achieving the modelled percentage shares of primary energy supply begins at a very low base level, and demands sustained high rates of growth in the alternatives sector; indeed, growth rates that far surpass any that have characterised global economic history during the last century.

S278_19

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371