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The following is the executive summary of a working paper originally published by the Center on Global Energy Policy in June 2017.
For a century, the geopolitics of energy has been synonymous with the geopolitics of oil and gas. However, geopolitics and the global energy economy are both changing. The international order predominant since the end of World War II faces mounting challenges. At the same time, renewable energy is growing rapidly. Nevertheless, the geopolitics of renewable energy has received relatively little attention, especially when considering the far-reaching consequences of a global shift to renewable energy.
The paper starts with a discussion of seven renewable energy scenarios for the coming decades: the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2016, the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2016, IRENA’s REmap 2016, Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2016, BP’s Energy Outlook 2016, Exxon-Mobil’s Outlook for Energy 2016 and the joint IEA and IRENA G20 de-carbonization scenario.
Some of these are forecasting while others are backcasting scenarios. While all the forecasting scenarios envisage growth in renewable energy, none anticipate a revolution in which renewable energy use surpasses consumption of any of the fossil fuels in the next several decades. In contrast, the backcasting scenarios posit a future in which the world employs a radically different energy mix where consumption of renewables eventually surpasses that of fossil fuels. In all three backcasting scenarios covered here, the share of renewables of total primary energy reaches 30-45% in 2035 or 2040 and 50-70% in 2050.
Lead authors: Meghan O’Sullivan (Harvard Kennedy School of Government), Indra Overland (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs—NUPI ) and David Sandalow (Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy)
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