Global energy consumption in the last half century has increased very rapidly and is expected to continue to grow over the next 50 years. However, we expect to see significant differences between the last 50 years and the next. The past increase was stimulated by relatively cheap non-renewable energy and increased rates of industrialization; yet while energy consumption continues to increase, additional factors are making the picture for the next 50 years more complex. These traditional complicating factors include the very rapid increase in energy use in China and India; the expected depletion of non-renewable energy resources in the not-t00-distant future; and the effect of human activities on global climate change. On the positive side, the renewable energy (RE) technologies of wind, biofuels, solar thermal and photovoltaics are finally showing maturity and the ultimate promise of cost competitiveness.
Statistics from the International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook show that the total primary energy demand in the world increased from 5536 GTOE in 1971 to 10.345 GTOE in 2002, representing an average annual increase of 2%.
Of the total primary energy demand in 2002, fossil fuels accounted for about 80%, with oil, coal and natural gas accounting for 35.2%, 23% and 21.2%. Biomass accounted for 11% of all the primary energy in the world, with almost all of it being traditional biomass for cooking and heating in developing countries; biomass is used very inefficiently in these applications.
The last 10 years of data for energy consumption also shows that the average increase per year was 2%. However, it is important to note that the average worldwide growth from 2001 to 2004 was 3.7% with the increase from 2003 and 2004 being 4.3%. The rate of growth is rising mainly due to the very rapid growth in Pacific Asia, which recorded an average increase from 2001 to 2004 of 8.6%
More specifically, China increased its primary energy consumption by 15% from 2003to 2004. Unconfirmed data show similar increases continuing in China, followed by increases in India. Fueled by high increases in China and India, worldwide energy consumption may continue to increase at rates between 3% and 5% for at least several years. However, such high rates of increase cannot continue for long. Various sources estimate that the worldwide average annual increase in energy consumption will be 1.6%-2.5% (IEA, IAEA). Based on a 2% increase per year, primary energy demand of 10.345 GTOE in 2002 would double by 2027 and triple by 2057. With such high energy demand expected 50 years from now, it is important to look at all available strategies to fulfill the future demand, especially for electricity and transportation.
Although not a technical issue in the conventional sense, no matter what types of engineering scenarios are proposed to meet the rising energy demands of the world population, as long as exponential growth in world population continues, the attendant problems of energy and food consumption, as well as environmental degradation, must be solved on the long term. Under current demographic trends, the United Nations forecasts a rise in the global population to around 9 billion in the year 2050. This increase in 2.5 billion people will occur mostly in developing countries with aspirations for a higher standard of living. Thus, population growth should be considered as a part of the overall supply and demand picture to assure the success of future global energy and pollution strategy.
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