By Nikhil Patel, Thomas Seitz, and Kassia Yanosek
Change is afoot in the energy system. Soaring demand in emerging markets, new energy sources, and the likely growth of electric vehicles (EVs) are just some of the elements disrupting the status quo. It is hard to discern how the aftershocks will affect the extraordinarily complex network of sectors and stakeholders. New research by McKinsey and the World Economic Forum has identified the game changers for companies and policy makers, as well as their implications.
A proliferation of new energy sources
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An array of energy technologies seems poised for a breakthrough. Within two decades, as many as 20 new energy sources could be powering the global economy, including fuel cells; small, modular nuclear-fission reactors; and even nuclear fusion. Fossil fuels will still be part of the mix, but renewables’ share is likely to grow owing to environmental concerns, further cost reductions that make renewable energy more competitive, and demand for electricity. Electricity demand is expected nearly to double by the middle of the century, propelled primarily by economic development in China and India (Exhibit 1). By 2050, electric power, which can be generated by low-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar, could account for a quarter of global energy demand.