Wind and solar will provide a mere 4 percent of all the world’s energy by 2040 while conventional fossil fuels provide 80 percent, according to a new report published by energy giant ExxonMobil.
The report found the fastest growing source of energy in 2040 will be from natural gas, which will meet 25 percent of all demand, surpassing coal’s 20 percent. The largest source of energy in 2040 will be oil, which will account for about 32 percent of total demand.
Nuclear power will provide about 7 percent of all energy, while wind, solar and biofuels combined will produce a mere 4 percent. Nuclear and renewable energy will both grow relatively fast in percentage terms, but won’t come close to matching the growth volume or rate of natural gas. The remaining 12 percent of demand will be met by a combination of hydropower, burning wood, geothermal and other comparatively minor power sources.
Exxon’s 2040 projections are roughly similar to the current U.S. numbers, which got 33 percent of its power from natural gas in 2015, another 33 percent from coal, 20 percent from nuclear, and a mere 5.3 percent from wind and solar combined, according to the governmental Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The Exxon report states that global energy demand will rise by roughly 25 percent by 2040 and that “the world will need to pursue all economic energy sources to keep up with this considerable demand growth.” An estimated 45 percent of new energy demand will occur in China and India, most of which will be met by coal.
Of the 2,400 coal-fired power plants under construction or being planned around the world, 1,171 will be built in China.
ExxonMobil’s report estimates that world population will grow by about 25 percent while simultaneously getting a lot richer on average. Exxon suspects that global economic output will roughly double by 2040. Despite the fact that the world will get much richer, the report states that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will only rise by 10 percent, peaking in the 2030s before declining. Most of this decline in CO2 emissions will come from power plants switching from coal to natural gas, which produces 60 percent less CO2 emissions.
The most rapidly shrinking energy source will be from biomass, which mostly consists of burning wood. Currently, burning wood produces almost three times as much energy than solar or wind power worldwide.