In its latest outlook report, the US Energy Information Administration said renewable energy, gas and nuclear power will be the world’s fastest growing forms of energy up to 2040 but fossil fuels, led by coal, will continue to be the backbone of electricity production for decades to come.
World energy consumption would rise 28 per cent between 2015 and 2040 with most of the increase occurring in the rapidly developing Asian region. Fossil fuels will still account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption at the end of that period.
Despite a projected trend against coal, world production is still projected to rise 3 per cent from 2015 to 2040, almost reaching 9.4 billion short tons.
China, India, Australia and the US will remain the largest coal producing nations to 2040 with Australia the world’s biggest exporter.
Regardless of high hopes for electric cars, petroleum and other liquids will remain the largest source of energy towards mid-century. Gas will be the world’s fastest growing fossil fuel with declines in coal use in China and OECD regions offset by growth in coal use in India and other non-OECD Asian nations, the EIA report said. “China remains the largest single consumer of coal in 2040 despite a steady decline in the country’s consumption over time,” the report said.
The use of coal in Chinese electricity generation is projected to rise slightly through to 2023 and then slowly fall to less than the 2015 level by 2035.
India’s coal consumption will continue to grow an average 2.6 per cent a year from 2015 to 2040, with the country overtaking the US as the second largest coal consumer before 2020.
Africa, the Middle East, and other non-OECD Asian countries are projected to gradually expand coal capacity and generation through to 2040 with coal consumption there forecast to rise 2.4 per cent a year from 2015 to 2040 maintaining a 20 per cent share of total energy consumption
The EIA report said many countries would “continue to take advantage of coal’s relatively low cost in their efforts to further develop their economies’’.
Asia will remain the world’s largest importer of coal in 2040 and Australia and Indonesia will remain the largest exporters.
Coal was projected to grow gradually from 2015 to 2040 at an average rate of 1 per cent a year as countries other than China increased their demand in industrial applications and electricity generation.
Globally, renewables including hydro-electricity, and natural gas, would provide much of the growth in electricity generation.
The report said wind, solar and hydro would be the fastest-growing sources of generation over the period 2015-40 “as technological improvements and government incentives in many countries support their increased use.”
Natural gas generation was forecast to grow an average 2.1 per cent a year to 2040 and nuclear 1.5 per cent a year.
Coal’s share of electricity generation overall would decline from 40 per cent in 2015 to 31 per cent by 2040, the same level forecast for renewable at that time.
China’s use of coal will start to decline by 2030. It is expected to fall from 72 per cent in 2015 to 47 per cent in 2040. “By displacing coal with renewables, nuclear and natural gas China is projected to achieve its maximum level of CO2 emissions before its 2030 target deadline,” the report said.
Coal, Gas, Nuclear, Wind, Solar Energy Trends
Coal is a cheap and reliable power source well suited for the developing countries, but it is extremely dirty and produces huge amounts of CO2 (1Gw plant makes burns about 2.8mln tons/year of coal, making 7mln tons in CO2, about 4,000,000,000 cubic meters) and 500,000 tons of mainly useless ash (a heavy pollutant of water and soil).
Gas is much cleaner, about half of CO2 and no ash compared with coal.
Nuclear is the energy of future for the base load power, particularly in developed countries with high levels of safety and security.
Solar is well suited for small private dwellings in cities and for remote small communities with no much industry around. The large scale solar plants are good for billionaires to make more money from the tax holidays but not as useful as the base load power source.
Wind farms are the disaster in waiting – unreliable, inefficient, don’t work when winds are too strong or too low, need electricity when idle to keep blades turning to avoid mechanical problems with bearings, huge infrastructure costs for cablings and transformers, waste of the farming land And remember also millions of tons of reinforced concrete that has to be removed when this technology eventually becomes obsolete.
Photo: Coal Operation
For Nigeria given unlimited gas resources sitting in the ground gas should be the power of choice for now and nuclear power (eventually based on thorium) for the medium/long term.
If electric cars do replace petroleum powered cars as is commonly suggested, we are going to need a lot more gas powered electricity until thorium based nuclear power becomes dominant.
Power generation is just one of the lower value adds for Nigeria’s gas molecules. All plastics require gas/petroleum as a feed stock – the world is using increasing amounts of plastics. With Nigeria’s gas resources, we should have been sitting on a huge petrochemical industry in Nigeria which delivers 20x to the base value of the gas molecule.