By Morten Lund & Jesper Toft Madsen
The ambition remains clear: The green transition should ultimately lead to a fossil-free society that utilises its resources in the most sustainable manner. However, our current consumption of energy resources demonstrates that this vision is still decades away from becoming reality.
In 2012, renewables accounted for 19% of global energy consumption. Looking to 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that at best renewables will gain a 40% share of total energy consumption. In short, we are in the midst of a slow transition.
“Unquestionably, our ambition to become a fossil-free society should remain firm, but we also need to reach our goals in a smart, responsible way. At this stage, we have to adopt a balanced energy strategy that combines fossil fuels and renewables as sustainably as possible,” says Søren Holm Johansen, Group Executive Director for Markets and Global Practices at Ramboll.
The energy trilemma
Both the political ambition and the actual outlook for future energy consumption point towards the need for a balanced energy supply. In Europe, the globe’s most progressive continent within renewable energy, the EU Commission has proposed a 2030 climate and energy plan that aims for 27% of total EU energy consumption to come from renewables.
Meanwhile, energy demands are mounting in step with the industrialization of developing countries. According to World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2013, energy consumption will increase by one third between 2011 and 2035. Developing countries alone account for more than 90% of the growth.
“Security, sustainability, and economic prosperity – this is the classic ‘energy trilemma’ that we face. WEO-2013 highlights the importance of taking advantage of potential efficiency gains in order to maintain competitiveness,” said Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director, IEA, at the launch of World Energy Outlook 2013 in London.
“Energy efficiency will be essential to getting that balance right – and I am pleased to say that it has become a focal point of energy policies. As we have emphasised in the WEO series in 2013, there are pragmatic strategies that governments and industry can pursue that both reduce energy use and emissions and are either GDP-neutral or positive for economic growth.”