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New Shell report forecasts possible societal and energy trends over next 50 years

08 May 2013

With the world’s population headed toward 9 billion at mid-century and millions of people climbing out of poverty, global energy demand could increase by as much as 80% by 2050, according to a new report from Shell. The report, New Lens Scenarios, looks much further into the future than most similar reports.

Shell’s futurologists envision two possible scenarios, covering trends in the economy, politics and energy over the next half a century, with dramatically different implications for society and the world’s energy system. 

One scenario sees cleaner-burning natural gas becoming the most important energy source globally by the 2030s and early action to limit carbon dioxide emissions. The other sees solar becoming the top source by about 2070, but with slower action to address the threat of climate change.

“These scenarios show how the choices made by governments, businesses and individuals in the next few years will have a major impact on the way the future unfolds,” said Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser.

The scenarios highlight areas of public policy likely to have the greatest influence on the development of cleaner fuels and renewables, improvements in energy efficiency and on moderating greenhouse gas emissions. They include: 
•    Measures to promote the development of compact, energy-efficient cities, particularly in Asia and other rapidly urbanising parts of the world. 
•    Mandates for greater efficiency in areas such as transportation and buildings.  
•    Policies to encourage the safe development of the world’s abundant supply of cleaner-burning natural gas -- and to promote its wider use in power generation, transport and other areas. 
•    A price on CO2 emissions and other incentives to speed the adoption of technologies to manage emissions, particularly carbon capture and storage (CCS).  

The first scenario, Mountains, sees a strong role for government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures. These help to develop more compact cities and transform the global transport network. New policies unlock plentiful natural gas resources – making it the largest global energy source by the 2030s – and accelerate carbon capture and storage technology, supporting a cleaner energy system.

The second scenario, Oceans, describes a more prosperous and volatile world. Energy demand surges, due to strong economic growth. Power is more widely distributed and governments take longer to agree major decisions. Market forces rather than policies shape the energy system: oil and coal remain part of the energy mix but renewable energy also grows. By the 2060s solar becomes the world’s largest energy source. 

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