November 2021, Vol. 248, No. 11


World Energy Use Projected to Grow 50% by 2050

Special to P&GJ   

In its International Energy Outlook 2021, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that, absent significant changes in policy or technology, global energy consumption will increase nearly 50% over the next 30 years.   

Although petroleum and other liquid fuels will remain the world’s largest energy source in 2050, renewable energy sources, which include solar and wind, will grow to nearly the same level.  

Falling technology costs and government policies that provide incentives for renewables will lead to the growth of renewable electricity generation to meet growing electricity demand.   

As a result, renewables will be the fastest-growing energy source for both Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and non-OECD countries, according to the EIA. Coal and nuclear are expected to decrease in OECD countries, although the decrease will be more than offset by increased coal and nuclear use in non-OECD countries.  

Additionally, EIA expects global use of petroleum and other liquids will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, driven entirely by growth in non-OECD energy consumption. This even though it is unlikely OECD liquid fuel use will return to pre-pandemic levels during the next 30 years.  

“We project that the industrial sector will increasingly consume petroleum liquids as feedstock in the expanding chemicals industry,” the EIA said in a news release. “In OECD countries, liquid fuel consumption in the industrial sector will grow three times as fast as liquid fuel consumption in the transportation sector.”  

Delivered electricity consumption will grow the most in the residential end-use sector, according to the Energy Outlook, with non-OECD countries accounting for more than half of the energy used in households by 2050, compared with 33% in 2020. In non-OECD commercial buildings, electricity is expected make up an even larger share of energy consumption in 2050, at 64%.  

Worldwide, natural gas consumption is expected to continue growing through 2050, with industry, largely in non-OECD countries driving most of the activity.   

Across OECD countries, gains in energy efficiency will reduce household natural gas use by 2050.   

The industrial sector will use the largest share of both natural gas and coal among all end-use sectors, with industrial coal use expanding fastest in non-OECD countries, where energy-intensive industries such as iron and steel production are growing more quickly than in OECD countries.   


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