Energy Transition Outlook 2017

Foreword: Remi Eriksen, DNV GL Group President & CEO

Welcome to DNV GL’s inaugural Energy Transition Outlook. As a company, we are highly exposed to the radical changes affecting every part of the energy value chain, and it is critical that we understand the nature and pace of these changes. To the extent that this study does advance understanding, we are proud to offer it as a service to all stakeholders in the transition, present and future.

Foreword continues:

Scenarios of our possible energy future are coming thick and fast from many quarters, but, in my view, they are not anchored to a base or ’central’ case, and that is the aim of this present exercise, which is a forecast, not a scenario. As a world-leading provider of third party and technical advisory services, our customers rely on DNV GL to take an independent view. We also have an equal footing in the fossil and renewable worlds, which we believe helps in striking a balanced perspective when regarding the outlook.

When I requested this forecast, I was keen to involve as wide a cross-section as possible of DNV GL’s engineers and technologists — not only to tap into their collective expertise, but also to lift their personal headlights to the possibilities and challenges that await them. I was also curious to see if DNV GL could produce a forecast of the energy future that could come to be regarded as a ’central case’.

At the start of this study, our research team surveyed perceptions of the energy future among their DNV GL colleagues. The survey revealed a good deal of common ground, but also showed that the respondents tended to favour the future importance of ’their’ energy source, whether fossil or renewable. My hope is that this outlook — the first in an annual series — will help to build a more unified view of the future, both within DNV GL and externally. 

A large number of external experts have been kind enough to review our work, and some, in the politest way possible, have remarked that we give insufficient primacy to “x” energy source (where x could be fossil, renewable or a potential source of disruption like geothermal or hydrogen). In a sense, that indicates that we are on the right track. But it is you, dear reader, who will judge whether we have succeeded in our mission. We welcome your feedback, as we prepare our next (2018) Energy Transition Outlook.

One would think that a ’central case’ outlook would, per definition, be boring. But the sheer scale of the changes that await the world on the energy front are such that even a middle-of-the-road forecast is anything but boring. The human ingenuity on display will be awesome as the world pursues UN Sustainable Development Goal #7, to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Underpinning that goal is a major shift toward decarbonization, which itself is linked to another great megatrend: energy efficiency.

Advances in both energy storage and renewables will create a highly competitive clean-tech coupling that will drive energy costs downwards, while accelerating energy efficiency. And that will produce a very different world in short order — one where energy decouples from carbon and where the world’s energy use decreases while the global economy and population continue to grow. A world where energy costs are expected to be relatively low, with available supply exceeding demand.

In these pages, we explain why world primary energy supply is likely to peak before 2030; this will surely be a watershed momentin human history, where collectively we will need less energy to satisfy our energy demand.

The consequences of the decarbonization of the energy mix and of the flattening out of energy demand are substantial, and the implication of this transition, and associated sub-transitions, are highlighted in our industry-focused supplements that accompany this main report.

We forecast that by mid-century, primary energy supply will be split roughly equally between fossil and renewable sources. That presupposes a very substantial growth path for renewable energy, but not enough, we calculate, to bring humanity on track to reduce climate emissions in line with the climate goal agreed in Paris in 2015. That should be a wake-up call to all stakeholders in the energy system. The industry that we know and serve has taken bold steps in the past; even bigger strides are required into the future. I hope our 2017 report makes for stimulating reading and provides food for thought — and action.

Download the report

The executive summary, main report, as well as supplementary publications on the industry implications of our forecast are available for download.

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