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Brussels, 12 May 2003

Energy, technology and environmental challenges: European research predicts bleak world picture in 2030

In 2030 the world's energy consumption will have doubled; fossil fuels, namely oil, will continue to dominate as energy sources and carbon dioxide emissions will be nearly twice those recorded in 1990, according to research published today by the European Commission. The "World Energy, Technology and Climate Policy Outlook" sets out for the first time ever a detailed picture of global challenges in this field expected in less than thirty years. The study puts into question the long-term impact of environmental measures in cutting greenhouse gases and encouraging greater use of renewable sources of energy. Developing countries are expected to have a serious influence on the global energy picture, representing more than 50% of the world's energy demand, as well as a corresponding level of CO2 emissions. In addition, in relation to 1990 figures, the US's contribution to CO2 emissions will have increased by 50%, compared to an 18% EU increase.

"We cannot afford to ignore these research findings and their implications for world-wide sustainable development," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "To safeguard energy supplies and meet our Kyoto commitments, Europe must intensify its research efforts. The new EU Framework programme for research is driving forward initiatives focusing on renewable energy sources, fuel cells and hydrogen technologies. This study provides us with an invaluable insight into the world's energy and environmental problems of the future. It will enable us to establish our future research and technological development priorities in the energy and environment field."

Thirty-year forecast

The "World Energy, Technology, and Climate Policy Outlook" (WETO) has been produced by a consortium of EU research teams, including ENERDATA and CNRS-IEPE in France, Bureau Fédéral du Plan in Belgium and the Commission Joint Research Centre's facility in Seville, Spain.

WETO addresses changes in energy and environmental patterns over the next 30 years. This is a priority for the 6th EU Research Framework Programme (FP6 2003-2006), which will devote €2.120 billion to "Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems" over the next four years.

The report sets out:

  • world energy projections (including future energy demand and supply, carbon dioxide emissions, fossil fuels production and prices);

  • Energy technology progress (including learning curves and specific cases for power generation technologies);

  • Climate change policy impacts (including a CO2 emission abatement case and the consequences of accelerated technological development).

WETO highlights in a quantified way issues such as EU gas market or technological development. Starting from a set of well-based key assumptions on economic activity, population and hydrocarbon resources, WETO describes in detail the evolution of world and European energy systems taking into account the impacts of climate change policies.

The results of WETO have been primarily obtained by using a world energy model ("POLES") developed during the last ten years by different EU initiatives in energy research.

Increasing energy demand

World energy demand will increase at about 1.8% per year between 2000 and 2030. More than half of world energy demand is expected to come from developing countries, compared to 40% today. CO2 emissions will increase by 2.1% per year on average. World CO2 emissions will reach 44,000 million tons by 2030. Industry will account for 35% of energy demand, the transport sector for 25% and services and households for 40%.

Soaring oil and gas production and prices

World oil production will increase by about 65% to reach some 120 million barrels per day in 2030: as three quarters of this increase comes from OPEC countries, OPEC will account for 60% of total oil supply in 2030 (compared to 40% in 2000). Gas production is projected to double between 2000 and 2030. Oil and gas prices will significantly increase: the oil price is projected to reach €35/bl in 2030.

Electricity production will increase steadily at an average rate of 3% per year. The role of gas and coal in power generation will become more prominent. Renewable energy sources, especially wind power energy, will account for a 4% share still limited, but on the rise.

Europe: slowing consumption, but growing dependence on outside energy sources

European CO2 emissions will increase by 18% in 2030 compared to the 1990 level (in the USA the increase is around 50%). While the emissions from developing countries represented 30% of the total in 1990, these countries will be responsible for more than half the world's CO2 emissions in 2030. Europe will rely more and more on gas as an energy source, but gas production will concentrate in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, thereby increasing European energy dependence.

Technological prospects

Should new energy sources emerge, Kyoto emission targets could be reached more easily: WETO estimates costs to meet those goals could be reduced by up to 30% should nuclear or renewable energy sources be used on a large scale. Major decreases in emissions could also be achieved by limiting energy demand and the carbon intensity of energy consumption. Industry is expected to make the biggest effort in reducing energy demand. The decrease in carbon-intensive energy consumption should come mainly from the substitution of coal by gas and biomass, and to a lesser extent oil. This scenario would also take into consideration a considerable increase in wind, solar and hydroelectric energy production.

See more information on the following web site:

The WETO report is available upon request.

Some figures

    World energy consumption

    [Graphic in PDF & Word format]

    Energy related CO2 emissions

    [Graphic in PDF & Word format]

    Gas production and consumption in 2030

    [Graphic in PDF & Word format]

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