10 Ways Energy Could Change Our World in the Future

10 Ways Energy Could Change Our World in the Future

1. By 2050, about three-quarters of people on Earth will live in cities — up from only one-half today. To put this figure into perspective, it means we’ll be building the equivalent of a new 1.4-million-person city each and every week from today until 2050. More people will be using more energy than ever in recorded history.

2. Much of this growth is projected to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Nigeria. India and China will also be experiencing tremendous growth.

3. Much of the 9 billion population in 2050 will join the “global middle class,” a group that will consume more energy thanks to widespread technology adoption. This growing global urban population could DOUBLE energy demands worldwide. Today, these people may not own a refrigerator; by 2050, they will have a kitchen full of appliances, a car, and all the tech gadgets Americans enjoy today.

4. More efficient power generation — like that used in Scandinavia — could be a significant part of the answer to increased energy demand.
For instance, combining heat and power generation facilities to capture waste heat from electricity production. This captured energy can be used to heat water for homes. These systems are already common in Scandinavia.

5. By 2060, 40% of our energy could come from renewable sources.
To meet this demand, renewable energy like solar and wind energy will likely expand considerably. But they alone will not be enough to support the well-being of everyone on the planet. Natural gas and oil will also be essential components of the future energy mix as partners, not alternatives to renewables.

6. The growing urban population could also double the number of cars on the road — from 1 billion today to 2 billion by 2050. Automakers will need to build more energy-efficient cars with fewer emissions to combat air quality issues and global climate change.

7. Alternative fuels such as electric, biofuels, and liquefied natural gas could power the next billion vehicles. These fuels all promise to limit environmental impact while offering improvements in efficiency.

8. Urban planning also has a major impact on global energy usage because more commuting means more wasted energy. Sprawling metropolises (such as Houston, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro) are far less efficient than dense urban powerhouses (such as Hong Kong, Singapore and New York). This is largely because of transportation inefficiencies. Commuter traffic consumes more energy than public transportation.

9. For sprawling cities such as Houston and Tokyo, energy improvements can be made to improve upon a fundamentally inefficient urban design. These improvements include de-carboning cars, greater public transport and micro-power generation in homes (think solar) — all of which reduce energy consumption in a low-density city. This “quick fix” is important because transitioning a city of this size to a more efficient system is costly and takes time.

10. Developing megacities will transition to high-density models (such as Singapore and London) with highly efficient public transportation systems. Such infrastructure not only use less energy, but they also make the scale of megacities livable for residents. These systems not only use less energy, they also make the scale of megacities livable for residents.


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All statistics and data courtesy of Shell’s report: New Lenses on Future Cities. Available for download here.

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