Is global energy use finally slowing down?

The world is getting closer to curbing its demand for energy but at the same time, investment in clean energy is slowing

A new global energy study forecasts an unexpected slowdown in worldwide demand for energy by 2050, but fossil fuels will still dominate the market.

The world is getting closer to curbing its demand for energy. Solar photovoltaic plants and other renewable energy sources, however, will only cut fossil fuel energy to three-quarters of the world’s energy needs by 2050. That will keep CO2 emissions high.

These are the key conclusions from new global energy studies. One study, from consultancy McKinsey & Co, (PDF) estimates that:

  1. Global energy demand will grow by just 0.7 per cent per year through 2050 – a rate 30 per cent slower than previously forecast. One key reason is slower economic growth as workforces age in China, Japan and much of Europe. In Europe and North America, energy demand will fall.
  2. Fossil fuels will continue to dominate the energy mix. Solar and wind will generate one-third of all electricity by 2050, but fossil fuels’ share of total energy will drop only from 82 per cent to 74 per cent.
  3. Oil demand will peak around 2030 as electric vehicles hit the roads. By that time, electric vehicles could be 30 per cent of all new cars sold globally.
  4. CO2 emissions from energy will still keep rising until around 2035.

In the shorter term, investment in clean energy is slowing. 2015 was a record year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with US$349 billion of funds invested, but investment in the first half of 2016 dropped to US$116 billion.

Two key reasons: electricity is getting cheaper, making new plant a less attractive investment, and solar panels cost less than ever before.

Read next: 7 shifts that could change electricity for the world

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September 2016
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