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Energy Demand to Peak by 2030; Biofuels & EVs Key to Decarbonizing Transport

10.18.16 | Blog | By:

Per capita energy demand will peak before 2030, according to a World Energy Council (WEC) report launched late last week at the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul. WEC notes the peak demand “is in stark contrast to historic growth levels, which have seen global demand for energy more than double since 1970.” The reason for the peak? Technological innovation, government policies fostering energy efficiency and renewables, and lower growth expectations will have a significant impact on the sector in the coming decades.

Three new exploratory and metaphorically named scenarios looking to 2060 were developed for the study: “Modern Jazz,” “Unfinished Symphony,” and “Hard Rock.”

  • Modern Jazz represents a “digitally disrupted”, innovative, and market-driven world.
  • Unfinished Symphony is a world in which more “intelligent” and sustainable economic growth models emerge as the world drives to a low carbon future.
  • Hard Rock explores the consequences of weaker and unsustainable economic growth with inward-looking policies.

Key findings from the report include the following, and they apply to all scenarios:

  • The world’s primary energy demand growth will slow and per capita energy demand will peak before 2030 due to unprecedented efficiencies created by new technologies and more stringent energy policies.
  • Demand for electricity will double to 2060. Meeting this demand with cleaner energy sources will require substantial infrastructure investments and systems integration to deliver benefits to all consumers.
  • The “phenomenal” rise of solar and wind energy will continue at an “unprecedented rate” and create both new opportunities and challenges for energy systems.
  • Demand peaks for coal and oil have the potential to take the world from “Stranded Assets” to “Stranded Resources”.
  • Transitioning global transport is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome in an effort to decarbonize future energy systems.
  • Limiting global warming to no more than a 2°C increase will require an “exceptional and enduring effort,” far beyond already pledged commitments, and with very high carbon prices.
  • Global cooperation, sustainable economic growth, and technology innovation are needed to balance the “Energy Trilemma.”

Fossil fuel usage could fall to as little as 50% of the primary energy mix in one of the scenarios, with very differing futures for coal, oil and natural gas. However, and shown in the figure below, in all three scenarios the carbon budget is also likely to be broken within the next 30 to 40 years, as the following chart shows.


Oil peaks in 2030 in Modern Jazz at 103 mb/d and at 94 mb/d in Unfinished Symphony. Despite growing demand for transport fuels, new technologies and competition from alternatives drive diversification and lead demand to slow beyond 2030. Hard Rock sees status quo transport systems dominate. As a result, oil sees a peak and plateau of about 104 mb/d between 2040 and 2050. Unconventional oil reaches 15-16 mb/d in Modern Jazz and Hard Rock. The Middle East region remains the dominant oil producer to 2060 in all three scenarios.

The table below summarizes shifts in total primary energy supply (TPES) by resources for each of the three scenarios.


Oil will continue to play a significant role in the transportation sector representing over 60% of the mix in all three scenarios to 2060 and natural gas will continue to increase at a steady rate.

With respect to decarbonizing transport, the diversification of fuels “drives disruptive change that helps to enable substantial reductions in the energy and carbon intensity of transport.” Oil share of transport falls from 92% in 2014 to 60% in Unfinished Symphony, 67% in Modern Jazz, and 78% in Hard Rock. Advances in second and later third generation biofuels make substantial headway in all three scenarios, ranging from 10% of total transport fuel in 2060 in Hard Rock, 16% in Modern Jazz, and 21% in Unfinished Symphony.

Disruption is also created by electricity in personal transport systems. WEC notes a growing global middle class drives the light-duty vehicle fleet to grow 2.5 to 2.7 times to 2060. Modern Jazz and Unfinished Symphony see rapid penetration of electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles globally which reflect 26% to 32% of the light duty vehicle fleet in 2060. Hybrid petroleum vehicles reflect another 24% to 31% share of the fleet. By 2030, there are over 185 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads, rising to 1.5 billion by 2060. The use of gasoline peaks in 2050 and diesel fuel peaks in 2040.


Progress is made through differing mechanisms. In Modern Jazz, consumer preferences and growing availability of vehicle charging infrastructure through distributed energy systems drive penetration of alternative transport solutions. Conversely, in Unfinished Symphony, government support schemes and integrated city planning result in fewer overall vehicles and penetration of alternative transport solutions, especially in urban areas. Hard Rock sees less infrastructure build-out and therefore less penetration of alternative fuels.

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