Knowing the reference context and identifying key trends in advance allows us to direct the business model and guide the ongoing transition in a sustainable manner. The increase in world population, the growing urbanization of metropolitan areas, the unstoppable development of renewables driven by increasingly competitive costs and positive effects in terms of decarbonization, and digitalization are the main phenomena that are changing the energy industry. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals complement and reinforce this scenario, giving energy a key role in achieving them.
The latest UN estimate forecasts that the world population in 2050 will be about 10 billion people, with a substantial presence in Asia of about 5 billion and in Africa of over 2 billion, and that the percentage of people living in urban areas will increase up to 66%.
Already in 2030 we will face the growing phenomenon of megacities, with several metropolitan areas such as Tokyo (37.2), Delhi (36.1) and Shanghai (30.7) with populations exceeding 30 million, with a shifting economic growth towards the Asia-Pacific region and more generally towards emerging countries. It is also estimated that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the 7 major emerging markets (China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey), amounting to about 20 thousand billion US dollars in 2017, may increase more than 200% to 2050, against a growth of about 50% for the G7 countries over the same period of time.
The World Energy Outlook-2017 (WEO-2017) from the International Energy Agency (IEA) also shows that renewable sources account for two thirds of global investment in generation capacity as they become the least expensive source for new installations in many countries. The rapid spread of photovoltaics, led by China and India, will make solar energy the main low-carbon source in terms of capacity by 2040, when the share of renewables in the global electricity mix will reach 40%.
The next few years will see a greater consumption of electrical energy enabled by new technologies and a reduction in the cost of use, making it financially advantageous to use energy in industrial processes and in civil uses previously powered by other sources. The WEO-2017 highlights how electricity will grow in final energy consumption on a global scale, reaching up to 40% of the expected increase between now and 2040. Worldwide, increasing access to electricity means that an average of 45 million new consumers are added each year. Since 2012, over 100 million people a year have gained access to electricity, compared to 60 million annually between 2000 and 2012. In addition to growing in its traditional fields, electricity has also gained ground in heat production and mobility, and its share of final consumption is nearing 25%. Worldwide, up to 280 million electric vehicles are expected to be on the roads in 2040, compared to the current 2 million.
The digitalization of the energy world underlies technological change and it is inseparable from electricity, enabling the current aggregation platforms to provide new services and contributing to the development of new low-carbon businesses. In this context, according to the estimates of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the set of renewable and demand response technologies will go, globally, from a current installed capacity of 2 TW to around 10 TW in 2040.