Energy Scenarios

In this section, an energy scenario will be described for the years 2025 and 2050 based on [29]. The objective is to show the potential that renewable technologies have not only to meet the mitigation targets but also the technological and economical expectations.

One way to gain perspective on the current situation is to construct scenarios that shed some light on the various possibilities and their implications. The scenarios presented here focus especially on the technological option.

The IPCC developed several scenarios [49,50]. The one adopted here is the scenario characterised by "high economic growth" and "accelerated policies" and is called the renewable-intensive scenario. This scenario was designated to represent the adoption of energy efficient policies without restricting economic growth. It projects a doubling of world population and an eighth-fold increase I gross world economic product between 1985 and 2050. Economic growth is assumed to be higher for developing countries than for those already industrialised.

This scenario assumes that renewable energy technologies will capture markets whenever a plausible case can be made that renewable energy is no more expensive on a life-cycle cost basis than conventional alternatives and their use at the level indicated will not create significant environmental, land use, or other problems [29].
The key points in building the scenario are:

There would be a diversity of energy sources, the relative abundance of which would vary from region to region. Various combinations of hydroelectric, intermittent renewable power sources (wind, solar-thermal, and photoelectric power), biomass power and geothermal power could provide electricity. Fuels could be provided by methanol, ethanol, hydrogen and methane derived from biomass, supplemented by hydrogen derived electrolitically from intermittent renewables.

Emphasis would be given to the efficient use of both renewable and conventional energy supplies, in all sectors. Emphasis on efficient energy use facilitates the introduction of energy carriers such as methanol and hydrogen. It also makes it possible to extract more useful energy from such renewable resources as hydropower and biomass, which are limited by environmental and land use constraints.

Biomass would be widely used. Biomass would be grown widely and converted efficiently to electricity as well as liquid and gaseous fuels, using modern technology, in contrast to the present situation, where biomass is used inefficiently and sometimes contributes to deforestation.

Intermittent renewables would provide as much as one third of the total requirements cost-effectively in most regions, without the need for new electrical storage technology.

Natural gas would play a major role supporting the growth of a renewable energy industry. Natural; gas-fired turbines, which have low capital costs and can quickly adjust their electrical output, can provide excellent backup for intermittent renewables on electric power grids. Natural gas would also help launch a biomass-based methanol industry. Methanol might well be introduced using natural gas feedstocks before the shift to methanol derived from biomass occurs.

A renewable-intensive energy future would introduce new choices and competition in energy markets. Growing trade in renewable fuels and natural gas would diversify the mix of suppliers and the products traded, which would increase competition and reduce the likelihood of rapid price fluctuations and supply disruptions. It could lead also to a stabilisation of energy prices.

Most electricity produced from renewable sources would be fed into large electrical grids and marketed by electricity utilities.

Liquid and gaseous fuels would be marketed as much as oil and natural gas are today. Large oil companies could become the principal marketers; some might become producers, perhaps in joint ventures with agricultural and forest-product industry firms.

In what follows, different hypotheses of energy resources and energy use to the year 2050 will be described. These assumptions will model the scenario that will be described at the end of the section.