A musical transition

A musical transition

Giancarlo Strocchia
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The 2016 WEC (World Energy Council) borrows some musical metaphors to delineate characters and global key players in terms of future energy prospects. Be it jazz or symphony, the world is launching inexorably towards epochal changes that will see renewables increasingly becoming key players

The use of musical metaphors is not accidental. The 2016 World Energy Scenarios presented by the WEC, the World Energy Council, explains how the prospects for global energy move between pre-written music sheets and more lively rhythms, geared to make the final goal increasingly clear: the global energy transition process cannot stop, regardless of the external economic or political conditions. There are essentially three musical categories selected by the World Energy Council to explain which alternative ways the aforementioned process may take between now and 2060: Modern Jazz, Unfinished Symphony and Hard Rock. Jazz explains how the market itself could govern change through the momentum created by technological innovation, commercial mechanisms and the need to make energy increasingly more accessible at all latitudes. On the other hand, Symphony, which is not yet completed, identifies the key players in the transition within the global governments and in their ability to legislate, through the implementation of strong policies determined to create an appropriate regulatory framework to facilitate the planning of long-term actions so that international energy choices prioritize the concept of sustainability. Finally, Hard Rock, the most fragmented scenario, in which each party involved in the world energy development moves convulsively, driven solely by the need to ensure the amount of energy required for its needs, by any means and without considering the need for a harmonious and global development of the sector.

The drivers of change and the energy horizon to 2060

@WECouncil: new technology and #alternativesources will slow down #energydemand for the transition to #sustainable business and services

To explain the energy development lines of the coming decades, the World Energy Scenarios takes on certain fundamental assumptions: between 2015 and 2060, the global population will continue to grow, but at a slower pace than it has grown to date: 1.7% versus 0.7% of coming years. New technologies will have a more “pervasive” effect, even with respect to energy production and consumption systems, according to a rate of growth in productivity directly in proportion to the impact that these technologies will have on the lives of all individuals. Moreover, the energy demand in the coming decades will not ignore the fact that countries with a higher rate of demand will undergo major transformations: by 2035, India will become the most populous nation in the world and China, more or less by the same date, will gain the absolute lead in the ranking of the most prosperous global economies. Obviously, each of the three “musical” energy development models could imply a different trend in transition paths. As regards the energy demand, the WEC expects the incidence of new technologies, along with the development of alternative energy sources, to result in a slowdown in levels of demand for new energy compared with past decades and to support the transition to the creation of increasingly sustainable services and business models. Therefore, the final report in terms of energy consumption, to 2060, could record an increase of 22% in the event that the “Unfinished Symphony” hypothesis is to be established, 38% in a more marked “Modern Jazz” framework and 46% in a “Hard Rock” context.

Sun and wind: increasingly key players

On the subject of renewables, the future will surely see a surge in solar and wind power. In 2060, according to WEC forecasts, the two sources will cover 20% and 39%, respectively, of the world’s energy needs. In an “Unfinished Symphony" context, strong political support of nuclear energy and hydropower could also bring the total amount of renewable “capacity" to 39% of the overall demand, while the digitization ingrained in the “Modern Jazz" model could bring this amount to no more than 30%. In the event of the Hard Rock scenario, the penetration of renewables is not expected to go beyond the 20% threshold by 2060. According to Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the WEC, speaking in Rome during the presentation of the report, “the energy transition process is unstoppable. It will depend on the prevalence of certain external elements, such as the speed of growth of the global population, persistence in the fight against climate change or rhythms of economic development in certain regions of the globe, or to what extent companies will be able to convert their business models based on the concept of decarbonization, defining which of the proposed models will emerge more quickly and effectively".

the future of energy will surely see a surge in solar and wind power. In 2060, according to WEC forecasts, the two sources will cover 20% and 39%, respectively, of the world's energy needs