27 October 2013

Saudi Gazette

Energy consumption in the Middle East and North Africa will increase by as much as 114 percent from 2010 to 2050, the World Energy Council’s report said.

This was based on estimates assuming “priority is given to achieving individual access and affordability of energy via economic growth.” However, energy consumption in the region would may be expected to increase by 81 percent if “emphasis is placed on international coordination and environmental sustainability.”

While total global energy consumption is expected set to increase between 27 and 61 percent by 2050, under either scenario presented by the report that still reflects a distinct slowdown in growth. The report notes: “From 1990 to 2010 – which is roughly half the time span covered in this scenario study – total global primary energy consumption rose by approximately 45 percent.”

The report also forecast that renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro power will enjoy the biggest growth over the next 40 years and will account for up to 30 percent of supplied energy. It is anticipated solar production will reach 7,740 terawatt hours a year by 2050—one terawatt-hour can power a city of 200,000 people for one year.

“The report found that such an increase equates to $9.66 trillion worth of investment in solar, “representing the largest potential investment area of any renewable energy resource.”

The boom in solar is a boon for the Middle East, especially a country like Saudi Arabia which has vast, uninhabited areas that received sun literally all year-round. While fossil fuels will still represent a lion’s share of the region’s wealth, the region’s current investment in renewable are expected to pay off by 2050.

Biomass, hydropower and renewables will together account for 13.3 percent to 20.7 percent of the region’s energy mix by 2050, up from 5.2 percent in 2010, the report found.

To cater to the rising electricity needs generated by economic development to 2050, the World Energy Council estimates a global investment of $19tn to $25tn will be required for electricity generation alone, with the majority of investments required being directed towards solar photovoltaic, hydro and wind power.

“While there will be opportunities in the future for a range of technology solutions, the ultimate issue is that demand continues to grow at an unsustainable rate,” said Karl Rose, the senior director of policies and scenarios at the council.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.