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Renewables to Grow Fastest in Next 25 Years – But Carbon Keeps Soaring

Renewable power will be the fastest-growing energy source over the next 25 years, but fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy source as carbon emissions rise by 43 percent, according to the reference case of the Energy Information Administration’s annual global projections.

The International Energy Outlook 2011 (IEO2011) reference case, which does not incorporate prospective legislation or policies that might affect energy markets, projects that renewable energy consumption will rise 2.8 percent per year and the renewable share of total energy use will increase from 10 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2035. Fossil fuels, however, will still account for 78 percent of world energy use in 2035 under this scenario.

The paper says that, in the reference case, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will rise from 30.2 billion metric tons in 2008 to 43.2 billion metric tons in 2035—an increase of 43 percent. Much of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions is projected for developing nations, especially in Asia.

World marketed energy consumption is set to grow by 53 percent from 2008 to 2035, with China and India accounting for half of that growth, according to the reference case. This scenario sees energy use in developing nations rise by 85 percent, compared to 18 percent for economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “China alone, which only recently became the world’s top energy consumer, is projected to use 68 percent more energy than the United States by 2035,” said acting EIA administrator Howard Gruenspecht.

The scenario projects that total world energy use will rise from 505 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2008 to 619 quadrillion Btu in 2020 and 770 quadrillion Btu in 2035.

EIA notes that China and India were among the countries least affected by the worldwide recession. In 2008, China and India combined accounted for 21 percent of total world energy consumption. With strong economic growth in both countries over the projection period, they will account for 31 percent of world energy use in the IEO2011 reference case.

Among the fossil fuels, natural gas will have the fastest growth rate to 2035, increasing 1.6 percent per year, from 111 trillion cubic feet in 2008 to 169 trillion cubic feet in 2035. In the reference case, unconventional natural gas (tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane) supplies increase substantially – especially from the U.S., but also from Canada and China.

World oil prices remain high in the reference case, EIA said, with light sweet crude reaching $125 per barrel, in real 2009 dollars, in 2035. But oil consumption will continue to grow. Total world petroleum and other liquids fuel use increases by 26.9 million barrels per day between 2008 and 2035. The growth in conventional crude oil production is less than half this amount at 11.5 million barrels per day, while production of natural gas plant liquids increase by 5.1 million barrels per day.

Meanwhile, world production of unconventional resources (including biofuels, oil sands, extra-heavy oil, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids), which totaled 3.9 million barrels per day in 2008, are projected to increase to 13.1 million barrels per day in 2035.

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