What is the Future of Energy in 50 Years?
Our world will be a vastly different place in the year 2064. With the rapid technologic innovations in the past decade, there is a ton of possibilities of how things will shape out over the next 50 years. One of the biggest drivers of global change within the next 50 years will be energy.
Energy will be prominent driver of this future change, and will see massive changes within the next 50 years.
Here’s what we do know, and from that, we can extrapolate future energy projections given current projections and anticipated future need. Energy is a commodity and thus follows the supply and demand rules. Future changes will impact both ends, the supply side and the demand side, and shape a distinctly different future of energy.
Higher Future Energy Demands
In the next 50 years, our country will demand more more energy. While there aren’t exact projections, the consensus is that three drivers will shape the growing future energy demands. First, our world is becoming increasingly technology dependent. Second, building off that technological dependency, we’ll see an increase in energy demand from the “Internet of things”. Finally, the growing US population will demand exceedingly more energy to build out the infrastructure to support a US population nearly half a billion people.
A) Our world is becoming increasingly technology dependent
Technology has shaped the past 50 years, and is projected to shape the next 50 years at an exponential rate. Even in the past decade, computers, phones, tablets, and home automation have been shaped by a changing technological landscape.
Appliances account for 20% of US energy consumption. With more appliances, there will be more consumption, which means significantly more demanded energy.
B) Internet of Things
Furthermore, one growing region of technological innovation is this phenomenon called “The Internet of Things”. The internet first began by connecting a series of computers together, allowing information to transfer quickly.
Tapping into that network, smart phones were able to feed into and draw from the internet, allowing apps to quickly share data, and connect with others.
The third phase of internet connection cycle will be our stuff connecting to the internet. Things that had been traditionally offline (like thermostats) connecting online and sharing data to create and derive better data, to make better decisions and ultimately a better world.
But, all these things need to be powered, and thus will demand more energy in the future. The internet of things will certainly play a role in shaping our energy future.
C) Growing Population
In 2051, the US population is projected to cross the 400 million threshold, and reach ~420 million citizens in 2062. That growing population means more people who consume more things, which take more energy to produce.
In summary: Demand Side
Over the next 50 years, a growing population, extensive technologic innovation, and the internet of things will demand more energy than ever before, forcing us to rely on new sources of energy to fuel that energy demand.
Higher natural gas & renewable supply
The second part of the future of energy is the supply side of energy, and how different sources of energy will work together to fuel the our increasing energy demands in 50 years.
There are three big trends, as predicted by the energy information administration, that will shape the supply side of our nation’s energy future. First, coal production is slowing. Second, there’s an increased focus in renewable energy as renewable sources make more environmental and financial sense. Finally, natural gas will become the main source of energy supply over the next 50 years.
1) Coal production not growing as fast
Coal is diminishing as the primary source of energy in America, and will become the second most prominent source in the future of energy over the next 50 years. This is happening for 3 reasons.
First, more and more coal plants are getting older, and being taken offline. This retiring of coal plants mean that less coal is being produced.
Additionally, we’re not building as many new coal plants. So, more coal plants are being taken offline, and the new coal plants are coming online less frequently, which causes a slow decline in coal’s prominence as a source of energy.
When all said and done, coal will drop from producing over 50% of our nation’s energy before the year 2000 to only producing just over 30% in the year 2064.
2) Increasing Renewable
The second driver of energy change on the supply side is an increase in renewable energy. Renewable energy, also called clean energy or green energy, means that the source of energy can easily be replenished- not a fossil fuel (like coal or oil).
Renewable is poised for dramatic growth over the next 50 years, and due in part to strict environmental emissions standards.
Learn More: EPA Emissions Proposal
2 main sources of renewable interest are solar power and wind power.
Solar power prices have dropped dramatically, making solar more price competitive than ever before.
In fact, solar panels are 99% cheaper than in 1976, and 10% cheaper than just last year. Solar is still small, and only generates a fraction of a percent of US energy, yielding a lot of growth opportunity for solar in the next 50 years.
Learn More: Future of Solar
Wind power, both offshore and onshore, is a growing opportunity for American renewable energy. Wind energy accounted for ~30% of Texas electricity one day recently, the highest ever. That amount of wind energy could power 5 million homes.
Additionally, in Texas, there’s 27,000 MW of wind power under study (basically in the on deck circle of energy) which is double what’s running now.
3) Natural Gas will become primary source of energy
The final big change on the supply side of the energy world is the growth in natural gas. Natural gas is plentiful, abundant, and cheap.
Natural gas currently accounts for 25% of electricity generation, and is the main source of heating homes throughout the country. With a high natural gas demand, low prices, and a projected lot of it, America is building its future on natural gas dependence.
In the year 2040, natural gas is projected to make up 35% of US energy generation, overtaking coal as the main source of energy in the United States. In the year 2000, natural gas accounted for just 16% of US energy generation.
Learn More: Falling Natural Gas Prices
Here’s a Chart Showing These Changes:
In summary: Supply Side
In order to meet the growing energy demands of the United States in 50 years, we will have to change the way we produce and consume energy.
In doing so, King Coal will fall from grace, renewables will continue rapid growth as solar and wind become more abundant and offer competitive pricing, and natural gas will become the main source of energy produced in the United States.
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