Technology

8 energy predictions for 2017

 By Amanda Saint

Energy generation, electricity costs and the switch to renewables are at the top of most country’s political agendas as they look ahead to 2017 and beyond, so what can we expect to see in the energy sector in the coming year…?

(Cover photo by www.wpccanada.com)

Prediction #1 – Fossil fuel energy costs on the up: The World Bank released its latest forecasts for 2017. It estimates that the cost of energy generated from oil, gas and coal will go up by 25 percent. This shift will be driven primarily by the cost of oil increasing by $2 a barrel as producers start to limit production.

Prediction #2 – Growth in electricity created from natural gas: The US Energy Administration (USEA) anticipates that electricity generated from natural gas will continue to be one of the fastest growing sources across the globe. In its report, International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO16), statistics show that between 2012 and 2040, natural gas-fired electricity generation will increase by 2.7 percent/year so that by the time we get to 2040 it will be providing 28 percent of worldwide electricity, which is a 6 percent increase from 2012 levels.

Prediction #3 – Coal to keep its top spot for now: The same IEO16 report shows that, despite its detrimental environmental impacts, coal will remain the largest single fuel used for electricity generation worldwide while strategies for reducing coal power continue to develop. Alongside strategies for reducing its use, there is lots of research going into clean coal technologies to reduce its impact until it can be phased out completely. A 2016 Global Clean Coal Technology Industry Report has recently been published, looking in depth at the developments in North America, Asia and Europe.

Prediction #4 – Liquid fuels to remain on a downward trend: Figure in the USEA’s Short Term Energy Outlook issued in November 2016, and in the IEO16 report, show that the energy use from petroleum and other liquid fuels will continue on a steady decline globally throughout 2017. Factors influencing this include the growing number of fuel efficient vehicles in use in developed economies and slowing economic growth in China, India and Brazil.

SEE MORE: The rise of natural gas by Peter Ward

Pressure meter and red faucet with steel yellow pipe in natural gas treatment plant in bright sunny summer day

Prediction #5 – Hydropower projects in Southeast Asia will move forward: Southeast Asia’s many hydropower projects are still progressing despite controversy and protest. Developments continue along the Mekong River, which feeds Tibet, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. China already has six dams in place, and plans to build more, although the latest project confirmed for Laos is raising concerns across the region.

Prediction #6 – Boom time for biomass pellets: The IEO16 report also predicts that the global market for wood pellets for biomass energy production will continue to grow. Much of the growth in this sector is driven by demand from Europe, the UK in particular, and exports mainly come from North America, but demand and export flows will be affected by the Brexit decision and resulting currency fluctuations. Despite this a recent market study carried out by Zion Research forecasts that the global market will almost double in value between 2014 and 2020.

Prediction #7 – Solar to slow again: The latest forecast from GreentechMedia’s Global Solar Demand Monitor is that there will be a global market slowdown in 2017 for solar energy of around 7 percent below 2016’s expected cumulative figure of 74 GW. But the slowdown is only temporary and they predict that solar will get back on its feet in 2018 and then see steady cumulative growth of 9 percent by 2021.

Prediction #8 – Wind to grow again: The Global Wind Energy Outlook 2016 forecasts that global wind capacity will grow significantly again, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America. World wind power generation capacity reached 433 gigawatts at the end of 2015, which is only 7 percent of total global power generation capacity. The report has put together a number of scenarios to predict how wind power generation might grow between now and 2050 based on a number of other factors. The most conservative scenario puts it at around a 563 percent increase on 2015 levels while the most optimistic has a 1241 percent increase. What happens long-term remains to be seen but in 2017, new wind power projects will come online across the globe and Asia will remain in the top spot for the amount of energy coming from wind.

about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.