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11 Ways Energy Could Change Our World In The Future

The crystal ball might be solar-powered. Shell is supporting bright energy ideas to help #makethefuture.

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1. By 2050, about three-quarters of people on Earth will live in cities — up from only one half today.


To put that figure into perspective, that means we'll be building the equivalent of a new 1.4-million-person city each and every week from today until 2050. WHOA.

3. Much of 2050's population of 9 billion will join the "global middle class," a group that will consume more energy thanks to widespread technology adoption.

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This growing global urban population could DOUBLE energy demands worldwide. Today, these people may not own a refrigerator; by 2050, they will have a kitchen full of appliances, a car, and all the tech gadgets Americans enjoy today.

4. More efficient power generation — like that used in Scandinavia — could be a significant part of the answer to increased energy demand.


For instance, combining heat and power generation facilities to capture waste heat from electricity production. This captured energy can be used to heat water for homes. These systems are already common in Scandinavia.

5. By 2060, 40% of our energy could come from renewable sources.

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To meet this demand, renewable energy like solar and wind energy will likely expand considerably. But they alone will not be enough to support the well-being of everyone on the planet. Natural gas and oil will also be essential components of the future energy mix as partners, not alternatives, to renewables.

6. The growing urban population could also double the number of cars on the road — from 1 billion today to 2 billion by 2050.


Automakers will need to build more energy-efficient cars with fewer emissions to combat air quality issues and global climate change.

7. Alternative fuels such as electric, biofuels, and liquified natural gas could power the next billion vehicles.

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These fuels all promise to limit environmental impact while offering improvements in efficiency.

8. Urban planning also has a major impact on global energy usage because more commuting means more wasted energy.


Sprawling metropolises (such as Houston, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro) are far less efficient than dense urban powerhouses (such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and New York). This is largely because of transportation inefficiencies. Commuter traffic consumes more energy than public transportation.

9. For sprawling cities such as Houston and Tokyo, energy improvements can be made to improve upon a fundamentally inefficient urban design.


These improvements include de-carboning cars, greater public transport, and micro-power generation in homes (i.e., solar) — all of which could reduce energy consumption in a low-density city. This "quick fix" is important because transitioning a city of this size to a more efficient system is costly and takes time.

10. Ideally, developing megacities will transition to high-density models (such as Singapore and London) with highly efficient public transportation systems.

11. Finally, residents enjoy living in these compact, energy-efficient cities precisely because they were carefully planned to be functional.


By ignoring future growth, cities risk creating energy inefficiency, traffic-jammed streets, slums, and unhappy populations. Anyone living in a city feeling transportation growing pains — such as Austin, Texas, or Los Angeles, California — can vouch for the importance of a well-orchestrated city plan.

Bottom line: Decisions made today will be critical to transitioning toward an efficient, lower carbon energy system that can support a growing global population

And Shell is here to help that process happen. Today, we're groundbreaking innovative solutions and supporting bright energy ideas to address the new energy challenges our world will face.

All statistics and data courtesy of Shell's report: New Lenses on Future Cities. Available for download here.