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Charts: The rise of renewable energy

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The world's appetite for energy is projected to rise more than 50 percent by 2035 and renewables will be the fastest growing source. But it still has an incredibly long way to go.

The world's appetite for energy is projected to rise 53 percent from 2008 levels, according to report released Monday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fossil fuels, including coal and oil, will still be the dominate player largely due to economic growth in China. However, there are some encouraging signs for renewable energy as well.

Renewable energy is expected to be the fastest growing source of primary energy over the next 25 years, according to the EIA. The upshot? Even though, renewable energy consumption will rise 2.8 percent per year its share of total energy use will only be 15 percent by 2035. It's progress, but not exactly mind-blowing.

And it's still frustratingly tiny compared to petroleum and coal. Keep in mind, the EIA's projections don't take into account changes in policy, legislation or even disruptive events such as the impact Japan's nuclear disaster might have on the global energy picture. In other words, the projections are a starting point.

Here are a few other highlights that jumped out in the report. Or check out the full document here (PDF).

Petroleum still dominates, despite high prices

Liquid fuels -- mostly petroleum based -- will remain the largest source of energy. However, it's total share of the energy pie is slipping a bit, even as consumption rises. Some important numbers:

  • The liquids share of world marketed energy consumption falls from 34 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2035, as consumers switch to cheaper fuel sources;
  • World use of petroleum and other liquids (i.e. ethanol, biodiesel, coal-to-liquids) grows from 85.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2008 to 97.6 million bpd in 2020. By 2035, the world is expected to  consume 112.2 million barrels of petroleum and other liquid fuels per day.
  • Transportation accounts for 82 percent of the increase in liquid fuel use from 2008 to 2035. Use of liquids for transportation is expected to increase by an average of 1.4 percent per year or 46 percent overall by 2035, despite rising fuel prices.
  • The price of light sweet crude in the U.S. (in real 2009 dollars) is expected to reach $108 per barrel in 2020 and $125 per barrel in 2035.

Demand for electricity outpaces growth in total energy use

Renewable energy will help meet some of that demand and use of oil for electricity generation will continue to fall, according to the EIA. Natural gas and coal will supply the bulk of that electricity.

Photo: Flickr user johnnyalive, CC 2.0

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure