Energy Economy

BP Energy Outlook Shows Renewables Rising, Coal Falling

Biofuel Cans
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While the world’s population and wealth grow over the next 20 years, so too does demand for energy. As we might expect, most of the growth comes in emerging economies. Perhaps the surprise is that between 2013 and 2035, global primary energy consumption grows at an annual rate of 1.4%, significantly below the 2.4% average for the years between 2000 and 2013.

The data come from the BP Energy Outlook 2035 released Tuesday by BP PLC (NYSE: BP). CEO Bob Dudley points out three key features in energy markets for the next 20 years:

  1. Crude flows are now heading from west to east, from the U.S. to Europe and Asia as strong North American production continues.
  2. The mix of fuels is changing, even though fossil fuels are expected to meet two-thirds of energy demand through 2035.
  3. The environmental challenge of reducing carbon emissions which Dudley says “underpins the importance of policy-makers taking steps that lead to a global price for carbon.”

BP sees growth in renewables averaging 6.3% per year while growth in coal shrinks from an average of 3.8% per year for the 2000 to 2013 period to just 0.8% per year for the period to 2035. Natural gas is the fastest growing fossil fuel source of primary energy, with a projected growth rate of 1.9% a year, compared with oil demand growth at roughly the same level as coal.

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Power generation’s share of primary energy consumption rises from 42% today to 47% by 2035. BP sees the largest shifts as the increase in share for renewables and the decline in share for coal. However, coal remains the dominant fuel worldwide for power generation, accounting for more than a third of primary fuel. The good news is that coal’s share declines from 44% today.

As energy intensity diminishes, the gap between global GDP and energy consumption widens. In other words, producing a unit of output now requires less energy — and that is a good thing for the environment. According to BP, all things equal, “gains in energy efficiency lead to a far greater reduction in projected emissions than improvements in the fuel mix.”

On the supply side, BP sees production growing with demand and cites International Energy Agency (IEA) data that technically recoverable global resources for tight (shale) oil are now estimated at around 340 billion barrels and the shale gas resource totals an enormous 7,500 trillion cubic feet. The United States is expected to continue to dominate production of oil and gas from shale for at least the next 20 years, with about 50% of the oil production and 30% of the gas production from global shale resources.

Among oil-producing nations, North America switches to being a net exporter of energy in 2015, while Asia’s import requirements account for about 70% of inter-regional net energy imports by 2035. The nations of the Middle East remain the largest net exporters, but their share declines from 46% in 2013 to 36% in 2035. Russia remains the world’s leading oil exporter.

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