Renewables fastest-growing energy source, feds say

The word’s energy consumption is projected to leap by 48% over the next three decades

Wind turbines

By 2040, coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources will provide roughly equal shares (28%-29%) of world electricity generation -- a tremendous change from 2012, when coal provided 40% of all power generation, according to a new report.

The report, International Energy Outlook 2016, was released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Renewables are now the world's fastest-growing energy source and are expected to increase by 2.6% per year through 2040.

Hydropower and wind are the two largest contributors to the increase in world electricity generation from renewable energy sources, the report stated. Together, hydro and wind account for two-thirds of the total increase in renewable energy from 2012 to 2040.

World energy consumption U.S. Energy Information Administration

Even as renewable energy sources increase in use, the world's energy consumption is projected to leap by 48% over the next three decades, led by strong increases in the developing world, particularly in Asia, the report stated. And, by 2030, fossil fuels will still supply more than three-quarters of world energy use.

The top three coal-consuming countries -- China, the U.S. and India -- make up more than 70% of the world's coal use, with China accounting for almost half.

With a slowing economy and plans to implement policies to address air pollution and climate change, however, China is expected to eventually experience a decline in its use of coal.

Because of the Environmental Protection Agency's new Clean Power Plan regulations, the U.S. is also expected to dramatically lower its coal use over the next three decades.

World energy consumption U.S. Energy Information Administration

"Of the world's three largest coal consumers, only India is projected to increase coal use throughout the projection period," the report stated.

Worldwide electricity generation from nuclear power will also almost double, from 2.3 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2012 to 4.5 trillion kWh in 2040. That increase is expected to happen "as concerns about energy security and greenhouse gas emissions support the development of new nuclear generating capacity," the report said.

"Virtually all of the projected net expansion in the world's installed nuclear capacity occurs in the developing world, led by China's addition of 139 gigawatts of nuclear capacity from 2012 to 2040," the report stated.

Renewable energy consumption U.S. Energy Information Administration

While petroleum and other liquid fossil fuels remain the largest source of energy production throughout the world, the liquid fuels' share of marketed energy consumption is expected to drop from 33% in 2012 to 30% in 2040.

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy use are expected to rise from 32 billion metric tons in 2012 to 36 billion metric tons in 2020, and then to 43 billion metric tons in 2040, a 34% increase from 2012 to 2040.

Industries will continue to consume the largest amount of energy, using over half of global energy in 2040.

Natural gas, according to the report, will be the fastest-growing fossil fuel over the next 25 years. Global natural gas consumption will grow by 1.9% per year through 2040.

According to the report, there will be abundant natural gas resources and robust production through 2040, including rising supplies of tight gas, shale gas and coal-bed methane, which will contribute to the strong competitive position of natural gas.

In contrast, coal is the world's slowest-growing energy source, rising by 0.6% per year through 2040. By 2030, natural gas surpasses coal to become the world's second-largest energy source after liquid fuels, the report stated.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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