A mini-series on the future of energy
By Dave Wilkin, P. Eng., M.Eng. and Tim Lutton, BSc., MBA
Our previous article, The energy big picture, showed global energy demand growing 25 per cent by 2040. Let’s take a closer look at this growth dynamic and its impact on CO2 emissions.
Energy-Demand growth is driven by Economic Growth (real GDP per capita) and Population Growth. Off-setting this growth is change in Energy Intensity (per unit of GDP), a measure of efficiency delivering the growth. Offsetting Emissions Growth is Carbon Intensity reductions, meaning energy is produced from lower emissions sources.
Canada’s 2015 Paris Agreement is a commitment of 30 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. To achieve this, we now need a combined 7.3 per cent annual reduction in Energy Intensity and Carbon Intensity. That’s more than double Canada’s historic average, and 50 per cent more than green-leader Sweden has achieved, despite their $150 US/ton carbon-tax, lack of oil and gas industry, and smaller, more temperate country. Quite simply, achieving Canada’s Paris Agreement commitment is currently not realistic. Our politicians are not accurately portraying the situation if they say it is.
On a grander scale, the challenge of meeting the global target of 50 per cent reductions by 2030 is much more difficult still. Using BP’s most likely Energy Demand forecast (1.4 per cent annual growth), the world’s Carbon Intensity reductions alone must increase to almost eight per cent annually, a 13-fold improvement over the past decade’s annual average! The emerging greener energy sources and new technologies can’t grow anywhere close to that rate. Getting to zero emissions by 2050 is even more unrealistic.
The United Nation’s Human Development Index suggests that energy consumption of 100 Gigajoules per person is necessary for substantial increases in human development, after which the relationship flattens out. Sadly, over 80 per cent of the world’s population currently does not meet this minimum threshold. (For comparison, Canada’s energy consumption is four times this minimum threshold.) It’s understandable that developing countries prioritize human development improvements over future uncertain climate change risks. It’s somewhat hypocritical for activists in wealthy countries to deny developing countries improvements and lifestyles that we take for granted today, but that’s what shutting down global carbon-energy would do to those countries.
The bottom line:
If another four billion people achieve middle-class lifestyle by mid-century, then energy demand growth will far out-pace both energy efficiency improvements and green energy growth combined, driving emissions up. A world population growing to ten billion people, driven by developing countries, combined with increased immigration from low CO2-intensity countries to high CO2 countries, only adds to the challenges.
This reality is ignored by most OECD political leaders, environmental activists and climate change ‘experts’. That’s unfortunate, because it’s the proverbial elephant in the room. This leads to our next article, the geopolitics surrounding energy. Watch for it!
Dave Wilkin is a Professional Engineer who lives in Huntsville. He is an electrical engineer with a career spanning 35 years in IT, banking and consulting.
Tim Lutton worked in the natural gas and LNG industry for 32 years; with Imperial Oil in Canada, and ExxonMobil in the USA, Australia and Qatar and now lives in Huntsville.
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