shell new lens mountains oceans

Mountains and Oceans: Shell Considers the Future Evolution of Global Energy

Rob Almeida
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March 11, 2013

shell new lens mountains oceans

With the world’s population headed toward 9.5 billion by 2060 and the rapid growth of emerging economies lifting millions of people out of poverty for the first time, world energy demand could double over the next 50 years.  This is the potential future envisioned by Shell in their latest “New Lens” scenarios, released last month.

Shell’s New Lens Scenarios, examine the economic, political and energy trends out to 2100, and underscore the critical role that government policies will likely play in shaping the future.

“The world in the future,” Shell notes, “will be defined by how people and governments meet the challenges posed by institutions, inequality, and insecurity in relation to the paradoxes of prosperity, leadership, and connectivity.”

  • Which paradoxes will become more acute?
  • Which will be resolved?
  • Which industries, businesses, nations, and groups of people will have room to manoeuvre?
  • Which will be trapped?
  • How will the capabilities of capital, collaboration, and creativity develop?
  • How will power and influence be distributed?

Based on potential outcomes of the above questions, the Shell Scenarios have provided critical insights into the potential trajectories of global economic, geopolitical and social trends since their inception in 1972. Shell Scenarios draw on wide-ranging expertise from inside and outside the company and have become a resource to governments, academics and think tanks around the world.

New Lens Scenarios: Mountains and Oceans. These scenarios explore two plausible future pathways, examining the implications for the pace of global economic development, types of energy used, and the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. They highlight areas of public policy likely to have the greatest influence on developing cleaner fuels and renewables, improving energy efficiencies and moderating emissions.

Scenario One: Mountains

This scenario anticipates a world of moderate economic development, with policy playing an important role in shaping the global energy system and environmental pathway. These policy measures result in more compact cities and transform the global transport network. Cleaner-burning natural gas becomes the backbone of the world’s energy system. Global demand for oil peaks in about 2035, with electricity and hydrogen dominating for cars and trucks by the end of the century. Technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions aids in reducing CO2 emissions from the power sector to zero by 2060. While greenhouse gas emissions begin to fall after 2030, they remain on trajectory to overshoot the target of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

Scenario Two: Oceans

This scenario envisions a more prosperous, but also more volatile world. The global energy system is shaped more by market forces and civil society than government policy. Both nuclear power and natural gas growth are limited outside North America by public resistance and slow adoption of policies and technologies, with oil and coal remaining significant forces in the energy system. Lacking legal and financial support, carbon catching and storage lags, capturing roughly 10% of emissions by mid-century. As a result, electricity generation takes about 30 years longer to become carbon neutral in the Oceans scenario vice Mountains. Hard to reach oil resources are developed due to high energy prices and a surge in energy demand, though oil demand plateaus around 2040. These high energy prices encourage improvements in efficiency and also solar power, with solar becoming the largest primary source of energy by the 2060s.

“By 2030 we expect demand for critical resources like water, energy, and food to have risen by 40%-50%. To meet those needs without significant environmental detriment, business as usual will not be an option – we require business unusual,” notes Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser.

Jeremy Bentham, Vice President, Shell Business Environment and Head of Shell Scenarios comments, “We are all faced with choices that produce consequences for years – and even decades – into the future. Whether we are developing new opportunities or anticipating significant threats, we base decisions on our perspectives of the future. So there is huge value in developing as rich an understanding as possible of the drivers, trends, uncertainties, choices, and cycles that will shape that unknowable future, and that may look very different through the eyes of different actors.”

While the future is impossible to predict, given the analytical rigor and track record of past Shell scenarios, it is likely that the global energy system in the future decades will closely resemble the trends predicted in these scenarios.”

Top image (c) Shell


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