Ultimately, reducing emissions will require storing carbon dioxide, developing new alternative sources of energy and, perhaps most importantly, using less.
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Meeting energy demand over the next century will require not just producing more, but also using what we do produce more efficiently while supplying consumers with affordable energy to allow them to maintain a comfortable standard of living. New technologies and new cultural habits will be needed. Electricity generated on the wind-swept prairies of Texas and sun-laden deserts of Arizona must be carried efficiently to houses and businesses in New York and Chicago. Doing so remains difficult, since a large portion of useable electricity is lost to heat as it travels long distances through wires and cables.
The red-hot wires you see heating your toast in the morning have been designed specifically to use the resistive heat generated by the movement of electrons. But, if the objective is to move electricity over large distances efficiently, this loss of energy is undesirable. By improving efficiency, less total energy will be needed to power everything we use. Accordingly, scientists and engineers are working to streamline the electricity grid, modernizing transmission cables with new materials that allow electrons to move more easily, producing less waste.
Another energy-saving efficiency can be found in hybrid cars. These cars capture a portion of the energy traditionally wasted as heat from friction between the tires and brakes. When you rub your hands together really fast, the heat you feel is created by friction.
This same effect occurs when the brakes on your car slow the rotating wheels—the energy used to move the wheel is converted into heat. Becoming more energy efficient will also require us to change how our buildings are made, how we heat our homes, and how we light our classrooms. For example, when coal is burned in a power plant, the energy released is used to superheat water, just as you would boil a pot of water on your stove. The process creates very hot and high-pressure steam that then pushes a propeller.
The spinning motion of this propeller turns a large magnet that generates an electrical current that is then transmitted to your home. But that steam at the power plant is still very hot after it has been used to create electricity. Rather than letting this heat escape as wasted energy, it is possible to send the steam out to homes and buildings to provide warmth on cold winter days. Energy efficiency is also being explored in other areas as well.
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If you have ever been in a car on a sunny day without the air-conditioning on, you know it can become very hot and uncomfortable. By redesigning our homes and buildings, this energy from the sun could be captured to heat rooms or the water we use in our showers and kitchens. We can use less energy by making even the simplest things more efficient—from our light bulbs to our cars, from our home air conditioners to our computers.
Engineers will continue to be on the forefront of such innovation, helping to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and impact on the environment. Over the next 10 years, a large number of people in the energy industry will retire. But their retirement will not lessen the growing demand for affordable, reliable and clean energy.
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It also takes innovation. This Outlook anticipates technology advances, as well as the increasing shift toward cleaner sources of energy such as electricity and natural gas. The industry of the future will be more energy efficient and less carbon intensive than it is today. Since it first started lighting homes in the late s, electricity has provided the means to boost economic productivity and improve the human condition with modern conveniences like electric motors, air conditioning and refrigeration.
Power generation has witnessed transitions in fuel sources from coal to nuclear and gas, and now we are harnessing wind and solar energy. The growth of new energy sources is impacted by factors such as technology cost improvements, the availability and quality of domestic resources, and government policies. Electricity demand is expected to grow around the globe, supplied primarily by growth in wind, solar, natural gas-fired generation, and nuclear.
Besides meeting residential, commercial, and industrial demand, the increase in electricity demand is also fueled by the growth of electric vehicles in light-duty transportation. Cost reductions in transportation batteries are being leveraged for other applications including larger-scale electricity storage. Today, batteries represent a small share of installed capacity on the grid, and are used for short-duration storage. The increased variable production from weather-dependent wind and solar triggers additional transmission build-out, storage and flexible gas peaking generation but results in reduced asset efficiency.
Further breakthroughs that provide new solutions deployable at commercial scale to maintain reliable and affordable electricity for consumers are needed. Similar to the transportation sector, we use sensitivity analyses to provide greater perspective on how changes to our base Outlook assumptions in the power generation sector could affect the energy landscape. Power generation modeling is complex with a number of questions to explore for both demand growth and supply mix, including:. There are a number of different potential outcomes for each of these questions that could yield different projections.
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These results describe a range of potential outcomes with some common trends:. Monitoring technology advancements, market behavior and the evolving policy landscapes can identify signposts related to cost reduction, technology deployment and policy targets indicating how a different outcome may materialize. Outlook for Energy Report. Popular searches Energy forecast.
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Download the infographic Demand's three drivers: Policy. Personal mobility also expands, but efficiency improvements and more electric vehicles offset the increase in vehicle miles traveled. Global energy consumption continues to shift proportionally to developing economies where population and economic growth are both faster than the global average.
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