Energy: 2000

Article excerpt

Energy affects all aspects of modern life. There is a clear correlation between energy use per capita in a country and issues that we value highly, such as life expectance, literacy, as well as productivity per capita. By the end of next century, close to three quarters of the world's population is likely to be urbanized, with intense pressures on housing, sanitation, air and water quality, health care and congestion. However, at the turn of the millennium, 2 billion people-a third of the world's population-still have no access to modern energy services.

During the 1990s, global energy capital expenditures have been over $200 billion per year. It appears that economic development over the next century will not be constrained by geological resources. Environmental concerns, financing and technological constraints appear more likely as sources of future limits.

One of the key issues in improving the standard of living of the poor is to make clean energy available to them at affordable prices. This challenge is all the more urgent when we consider that the world population is expected to double by the end of the twenty-first century, from the present 6 billion to approximately 10.4 billion by 2100-and virtually all growth is expected in the South.

By 2100, according to studies of the World Bank and the United Nations, the population of the developed countries will drop to less than 10 per cent of the world total, while developing countries will account for about 80 per cent of the global energy demand. Energy per capita availability in the developing countries is likely to be far less than in the rest of the world-perhaps only 50 to 60 per cent of that in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development area.

Energy issues should be viewed in their total-global, social and institutional, as well as economic and environmental-perspective. In particular, people demand not energy as such but the services which energy can provide: heating, cooling, cooking, lighting, mobility and motive power. In 1990, the world's primary energy was provided by oil (34%), coal (24%), gas (19%), renewables (18%) and nuclear (5%).

In 1993, the World Energy Council's (WEC) Commission developed three energy cases (later expanded into six alternative scenarios) to illustrate future possibilities, each case representing different assumptions in terms of economic development, energy efficiencies, technology transfer and the financing of development around the world. The principal focus is on the period between 202 and 2050.

In all scenarios there is a significant expansion of renewables. The peak of the fossil fuel era has passed. Fossil energy consumption grows more slowly than total primary energy needs.

Oil, gas and coal remain important transitional sources of energy, but their percentage share in total primary energy gradually declines throughout the next century. In absolute amounts, however, future oil and gas requirements are huge compared with current levels.

Traditional uses of renewables (fuel wood) are expected to be gradually replaced by high-quality energy carriers, including those from "new" renewable sources such as modem biomass, solar, wind and geothermal energy. Hydro power and traditional biomass are already important factors in the world's energy mix, contributing about 18 per cent of the total, whereas the "new" renewables contribute only about 2 per cent of the world primary energy use. The period until 2020 is considered a very important transitional period for renewables in the energy market, especially as one of the potentially largest single contributors of the "new" renewables, namely solar energy for electricity production, is still not commercially competitive with conventional energy sources. …