World energy use to surge 50% between 2005 and 2030

Worldwide energy consumption is projected to grow 50% between 2005 and 2030, driven by robust economic growth and expanding populations in the world’s developing countries, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a reference case projection from its International Energy Outlook 2008 in June.

According to report, coal’s share of world energy use has increased sharply over the past few years. The report goes so far as to say that without significant changes in existing laws and policies, particularly those related to greenhouse gas emissions, robust growth in coal use is likely to continue.

Coal accounted for 24% of total world energy use in 2002 and 27% in 2005, largely as a result of rapid increases in coal use in China. The EIA estimates that China’s coal consumption has nearly doubled since 2000. Given the country’s rapidly expanding economy and large domestic coal deposits, its demand for coal is projected to remain strong. In the reference case, coal use is projected to expand by 2% every year between 2005 and 2030, and coal’s share of total world energy consumption is expected to reach 29% in 2030.

The report also finds that concerns about rising fossil fuel prices, energy security, and greenhouse gas emissions support the development of new nuclear generating capacity. World nuclear capacity is projected to rise from 374 GW in 2005 to 498 GW in 2030 (Figure 5). Declines were forecasted only for European countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Several of its countries—including Germany and Belgium—have either plans or mandates to phase out nuclear power, and some of their old reactors are expected to be retired and not replaced. China is projected to add 45 GW of net nuclear capacity over the projection period. Russia is expected to add 18 GW, and India is at its heels, with 17 GW. By 2030, the U.S. will have added 15 GW of nuclear power, says the EIA.

5. Escalating power. The EIA forecasts that new nuclear power plant builds worldwide will increase global nuclear power capacity to 498 GW by 2030. One new plant is the 912-MW Tomari 3 nuclear power plant, shown here, currently under construction by Hokkaido Electric Power on Japan’s most northerly island. The plant will use a steam generator by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries when it comes on-line in December 2009. Courtesy: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

The report expects that sustained high prices for oil and natural gas also will encourage expanded use of renewables. Government policies and incentives to increase renewable energy sources for electricity generation are expected to encourage the development of renewable energy even when it cannot compete economically with fossil fuels. Already attractive in countries where reducing greenhouse gas emissions is of particular concern, the consumption of hydroelectricity and other renewables is expected to increase by 2.1% per year between 2005 and 2030. This compares with an annual increase of 2% for coal, 1.7% for natural gas, 1.5% for nuclear, and 1.2% for petroleum liquids.

The reference case, which the EIA admits leaves out specific policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions, projects that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions worldwide will rise from 28.1 billion metric tons in 2005 to 42.3 billion metric tons in 2030—a 51% increase. The EIA adds that it anticipates strong economic growth and continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels globally, but that much of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions will occur among the world’s developing nations, especially in Asia.