Energy Forecast for 2050

Sep 11, 2021

Fossil fuels will dominate energy use through 2050. This is because of the massive investments that have already been made and because of the superior energy intensity and reliability of fossil fuels. The mix, however, will change. Gas will continue to grow quickly, but the global demand for coal will likely peak around 2025. Growth in the use of oil, which is predominantly used for transport, will slow down as vehicles get more efficient and more electric; here, peak demand could come as soon as 2030. By 2050, the research estimates that coal will be down to just 16 percent of global power generation (from 41 percent now) and fossil fuels to 38 percent (from 66 percent now). Overall, though, coal, oil, and, gas will continue to be 74 percent of primary energy demand, down from 82 percent now. After that, the rate of decline is likely to accelerate.

Energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions will rise 14 percent in the next 20 years. That is not what needs to happen to keep the planet from warming another two degrees, the goal of the 2015 Paris climate conference. Around 2035, though, emissions will flatten and then fall, for two main reasons. First, cars and trucks will be cleaner, due to more efficient engines and the deployment of electric vehicles. Second, there is the shift in the power industry toward gas and renewables discussed above. The countervailing trends are that there are likely to be some 1.5 billion more people by 2035, and global GDP will rise by about half over that period. All those people will need to eat and work, and that means more energy.