If I had to point to one example in this year’s Outlook that demonstrates the power of technology, it’s the story of unconventional natural gas production. In less than 20 years, gas production from shale and other unconventional sources rose from negligible amounts to about 10 percent of global gas production in 2010. By 2040, that number skyrockets: Gas production from unconventional sources is expected to account for about 30 percent of global gas supplies.
This “game-changer”—as some have called shale gas resources—couldn’t come at a better time. It’s a reliable, affordable and cleaner source of energy that will help fuel growing prosperity and better living conditions around the globe. Such progress—especially in the world’s emerging economies—is expected to drive up global energy demand by about 30 percent in 2040.
So what are some of the other major transitions in energy to 2040? Let’s take a look at a few more examples—what you might call the “Three E’s”: Electricity, Efficiency and Emissions.
Electricity: Cleaner fuel sources will help meet enormous growth in electricity demand.
- The world’s demand for electricity will rise by an astounding 80 percent through 2040.
- Use of coal—the historical go-to fuel for electricity—will peak and then decline for the first time in the next few decades as the world shifts to lower-emission sources of energy.
- Natural gas—which emits up to 60 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when used for electricity generation—will take the top spot instead, accounting for about 30 percent of global electricity generation by 2040.
Efficiency: One of the most overlooked and under-covered stories about the future of energy.
- To understand the power of efficiency, consider the fact that by 2040, the number of personal vehicles in the world will nearly double to total 1.6 billion vehicles.
- Yet global demand for fuel to power these vehicles is expected to peak in the next 10 to 15 years, and then begin to gradually decline by 2040.
- How is that possible? Consumers will choose more efficient conventional cars, hybrids and other advanced vehicles, and governments will set higher efficiency standards; in fact, we expect that hybrids and other advanced vehicles will account for nearly 50 percent of the vehicles on the road in 2040, compared to just 1 percent today.
Emissions: Some countries already on a downward trend
- Despite nearly doubling their economic output by 2040, developed economies such as the United States and Europe will see their energy demand remain essentially unchanged—in addition to a 20 percent drop in their emissions.
- The reason? Developed economies are switching to less-carbon intensive fuels and adopting energy management practices and technologies that increase efficiency.
- The same trends will become more prevalent in emerging economies like China, which means that despite a 30 percent increase in total global energy demand to 2040, emissions are actually expected to reach a plateau around 2030.
I’ve only touched on a few of the major findings from this year’s Outlook for Energy—I encourage you to download a copy at exxonmobil.com, or visit our interactive website to see more charts and data.