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Energy to 2050, Scenarios for a Sustainable Future, 2003

Energy to 2050, Scenarios for a Sustainable Future, 2003


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Published by: i-people on Mar 28, 2008
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Our review makes clear that existing scenarios, while shedding light on a
number of critical energy questions, did not adequately address the policy
issues that must be confronted and that a number of key uncertainties
could usefully be further explored through new scenario work. For us, the
questions and uncertainties that still seemed inadequately addressed are


4. Conclusions

for the most part related to energy security, environmental damage and
technological development. And, from this conclusion emerged the interest
in developing new scenarios with the specific purpose of exploring possible
energy futures for energy and the environment over the coming 50 years.

Given the multiplicity of possible interests and outcomes, it was clear that
exploring a family of scenarios rather than developing a single alternative
would be most appropriate. The scenarios were thus built around two main
drivers that appear as fundamental forces in shaping the future for energy
and environment. These are the speed of technological change especially
in the energy sector (varying from slow to fast) and the attitudes of people
at large towards the global environment (varying from unconcerned to
concerned), particularly with respect to climate change issues. Creating a
simplified matrix of these variables provided four outcomes, although only
three were characterised in much detail (the fourth, low security and low
environmental concern, was dismissed). The resulting three storylines
represented three rather extreme views of the future world, covering a wide
range of cases for the chosen variables. They do provide a way to clarify
logical chains of events and possible consequences. All three scenarios
have elements of plausibility – although, as with any specific scenario, they
cannot be said to represent what willoccur. In fact, it seems much more
likely that the future world will be some combination of the three cases.

The three scenarios do allows us to think about the future in a systematic
way, to identify potential threats and opportunities lying ahead, thus
providing us with useful insights for planning. Clearly, however, there is an
element of oversimplification in the scenario process that must be kept in
mind while deriving conclusions.

What conclusions can we draw? With respect to the sustainability of the
futures they portray, two of the scenarios illustrated exhibit some obviously
undesirable traits. In Scenario 1 (Clean but not Sparkling), notwithstanding
attitudes of concern towards the environment, the goal of creating the
conditions for long-term sustainability is missed for lack of appropriate
technologies. In Scenario 2 (Dynamic but careless) increasing demand
pressure on scarce fossil resources, poses substantial risks from the point of
view of global security. Furthermore, the environment is threatened
through significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions. However, the
dynamic scenario produces a wider array of technology options – and
these, in turn lead to the potential for a more sustainable future later on.
The third scenario (Bright skies) meets the conditions for long-term


4. Conclusions

sustainability, and presents very low risks from the point of view of security
of supply.

Although for different reasons, all three scenarios indicate that, for the
coming fifty years, we may expect a substantial growth of gas demand
worldwide: gas should be overtaking coal and then oil at some point
during that period. In consideration of such growth in demand, gas prices
would increase unless exploration, extraction and transport costs decrease
fast enough to keep pace over time. This suggests that finding gas in the
quantities needed and then delivering it to the consumption markets will
be a challenge for the coming decades. Oil demand would also increase,
although not as fast as gas demand, and not at the same pace in the three
scenarios considered. In at least one of the scenarios, geopolitical risks
associated with the location of known oil deposits would provoke recurring
crises in the oil markets and price spikes.

All three scenarios assume continuing economic development over the
coming fifty years in developing countries (although at different speeds),
leading to energy consumption patterns increasingly similar to those of the
developed societies. Two scenarios (Clean but not sparkling, and Bright
skies) show a certain measure of convergence of average incomes between
OECD and developing countries, while income gaps could actually been
maintained in the Dynamic but carelessscenario.

The three stories indicate that for long-term sustainability it is critical to
ensure robust dynamics in technological improvement but that unless
there is a fundamental change in values and attitudes towards the global
environment, technology alone cannot be trusted to supply the entirety of
the solutions. Values and attitudes are what give direction to technological
change and, vice versa, the direction of technological change reflects the
system of values of a society. The scenarios thus show that policy can have
a role not only in directing research and technology development towards
the attainment of specific social objectives but also in favouring (or
hampering) successful and rapid technological change. However, while
designing intelligent policies that increase the chances of successful
technological development is something that can be done by good policy
analysts, implementing the policies requires political will, and that
ultimately depends on social values and priorities: an altogether much
more difficult variable to change.

Concerning technology, the three scenarios present clear differences with
respect to the technologies that are likely to emerge in these three
different contexts:


4. Conclusions

■the Clean but not sparklingscenario, besides stressing spartan
behaviour on the part of energy users, concentrates on more energy-
efficient and cleaner end-use technologies, on fuel switching and on
renewable energy technologies. It later reconsiders zero carbon
emitting technologies like nuclear;

■the Dynamic but careless scenario focuses initially on fossil fuel based
technologies but later, in order to mitigate security of supply concerns
develops other alternatives, like nuclear and hydrogen;

■the Bright skiesscenario develops the entire range of options early,
choosing both near-term focus on efficiency and a longer-term focus on
zero carbon emitting technologies for medium to large-scale energy

A more detailed look at the technological aspects of these story-lines
allows some additional insights to be drawn, particularly related to
security of energy supply and environmental sustainability. Certain
technology areas are critical to all three scenarios and thus appear most
robust in different situations. On the energy supply side these include:

■energy efficiency improvement (EEI) in supply technologies;

■advanced gas technologies in power generation: combined cycle gas
turbines. Gas transport, storage and liquefaction/re-gasification

■cleaner coal technologies (Pulverised coal, FBCC, PC supercritical and
PFBC). Technologies for criteria pollutants abatement (SOx, NOx, PM);

■combined heat and power production. Micro-generation (gas). Fuel cell
power plants for power or CHP production;

■nuclear technologies; life extension and safety; new reactor concepts;

■power generation from renewable sources: solar PV, high temperature
solar thermal, wind, biomass, and hydro;

■technologies for hydrogen production (from coal, gas, nuclear or
biological agents), transport and long-term storage;

■power storage technologies;

■carbon capture and storage for large-scale use;



4. Conclusions

On the energy demand side robust actions include:

■energy efficiency improvement and conservation in all demand sectors;
more efficient appliances, wider use of ICT to optimise performance;

■low energy- and material-intensive manufacturing processes and

■passive heating and cooling technologies & architectures in buildings.
Building management systems;

■fuel efficiency improvement in conventional vehicles. Bio fuels. LPG and

■hybrid vehicles. Electric vehicles;

■fuel cell (gas or hydrogen fuelled) cars. Hydrogen storage technologies;

■mass transit systems. Advanced public transport systems;

■fuel cells for direct use of power.

Development and diffusion of these technologies at acceptable costs thus
appear desirable to contribute to overall improvement in the efficiency of
energy production and use or to the reduction of GHG emissions, or to
both. In some cases, they could also help mitigate security of supply risks.

Some technologies however appear mainly in the Dynamic but careless
scenario owing to its strong focus on fossil fuels and limited interest in
reducing CO2emissions. These technologies (oil and gas, extraction and
transport technologies; oil shales and tar sands treatment technologies;
enhanced oil recovery technologies; coal liquefaction and gasification
technologies) while helpful in reducing security of supply risks, might result
in faster production of greenhouse gases should they acquire a large
market share.

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