The energy future
The world will need much more energy to power homes and fuel transport for a growing population with rising living standards. But to counter climate change, energy must increasingly come from lower-carbon sources. Our know-how, technology and innovations are helping to deliver more, cleaner energy.
Lives and livelihoods, economies and communities depend on convenient, reliable and affordable energy to prosper and grow. People today have never been more connected. More and more of us are enjoying better opportunities, better health and a higher standard of living.
Most of the energy we use today comes from oil and coal, and increasingly from natural gas. These hydrocarbons power, heat and cool homes and workplaces, and fuel transport systems that take us to work or school, or bring us to a holiday destination. They enable industries that sustain our lives, and provide the chemical ingredients to make most of the products we buy – like the device you are using to read this page.
Global demand for energy is rising, driven by growing population with rising living standards.
By 2050 the number of people on the planet is forecast to grow to 9 billion - that’s nearly 2 billion more of us than today. Many people in emerging economies will join the global middle class. They will buy refrigerators, computers and other appliances that consume energy. And many will buy cars, more than doubling the number on the road.
Our cities increasingly provide the heartbeat of our economy. Around three-quarters of the world’s population will live in cities by mid-century, putting more pressure on the food, water and energy resources essential for our shared wellbeing and prosperity.
Read about Shell’s work on future cities
Experts agree that global energy demand is likely to double by 2050 compared to its year 2000 level. At the same time, tackling climate change caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other environmental stresses has never been more important.
Meeting these challenges will require a radical change in the global energy system and a range of new energy sources. Because the energy system is so large, and demand for energy is rising so quickly, to achieve these changes will take a huge collective effort.
Around three-quarters of us will live in cities by 2050
A cleaner energy future
Shell has been preparing for the challenges of a lower-carbon future for some time through our scenarios planning.
Our New Lens Scenarios describe plausible futures, where renewable energy sources like solar and wind could provide up to 40% of energy globally by 2060, and the sun becomes the world’s largest primary energy source a decade later.
As the energy system evolves, hydrocarbons will continue to play a vital role in the coming decades, providing much-needed energy to fuel transport, in particular aviation, and make everyday products from plastics to steel.
We are using our know-how, technology and innovation to deliver more, cleaner energy to help meet the world’s growing needs, and find ways to use energy more efficiently. We also work with partners, communities, governments and others to do this in environmentally and socially responsible ways.
Today, natural gas – the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon – makes up more than half of our production. We believe it will be vital to building a sustainable energy future, especially in power generation, where it produces around half the CO2 and just one-tenth the air pollutants that coal does.
We are involved in several projects to safely capture and store CO2 to mitigate the use of hydrocarbons. These depend on government support to be financially viable and to become more widespread. Replacing a coal-fired power plant with a gas-fired plant that has CCS can cut CO2 emissions by up to 90%. We also have a decade of experience in wind power, with involvement in nine projects in North America and Europe.
Transport is essential to modern living. We are innovating to help people and goods move around more cleanly and efficiently, by developing more efficient lubricants and fuels including low-carbon biofuels and hydrogen, and providing education programmes helping drivers boost their own fuel economy.
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