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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Energy scenarios: the value and limits of scenario analysis

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A need for low‐carbon world has added a new challenging dimension for the long‐term energy scenarios development. In addition to the traditional factors like technological progress, demographic, economic, political, and institutional considerations, there is another aspect of the modern energy forecasts related to the coverage, timing, and stringency of policies to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. Modern tools for the energy scenario development provide a good basis for the estimates of the required changes in the energy system to achieve certain climate and environmental targets. While the current scenarios show that a move to a low‐carbon energy future requires a drastic change in energy investment and the resulting mix in energy technologies, the exact technology mix, paths to the needed mix, price, and cost projections should be treated with a great degree of caution. The scenarios do not provide exact predictions, but they can be used as a qualitative analysis of decision‐making risks associated with different pathways. If history is any guide, energy scenarios overestimate the extent to which the future will look like the recent past. As future costs and the resulting technology mixes are uncertain, a wise government policy is to target emissions reductions from any source, rather than focus on boosting certain kinds of low‐carbon energy. WIREs Energy Environ 2017, 6:e242. doi: 10.1002/wene.242 This article is categorized under: Energy and Climate > Economics and Policy Energy and Climate > Systems and Infrastructure Energy Policy and Planning > Economics and Policy
Projected and actual global energy demand for 2010. Data Source: IEA World Energy Outlooks for 1994–2005 (there was no Outlook in 1997 and the 2003 Outlook used 2002 projections).
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Illustration of the key components of the energy projection system. Note: Colored arrows represent assumptions and outputs of the model, while the other colored components represent details on fuel supply, energy demand, final energy demand sectors, and demands for energy services. Uncolored blocks represent energy production, trade, and transformation. Figure Source: IEA.
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Greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 and 2030 resulting from actions proposed by countries for the UN climate conference in Paris (COP‐21) as projected by different modeling groups. Figure Source: World Resources Institute.
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Electricity generation portfolio in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, and the OECD 90 across models in the CO2 price $30 (5% p.a.) scenario of the Asian Modeling Exercise in 2050. Figure Source: Krey.
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Global total primary energy use: Historic data and projections up to 2100 in the scenarios consistent with 2°C target. Data Source: IEA and AR5 Scenario Database.
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Global total primary energy use: projections from the Edmonds‐Reilly study (panel a), historic data (1975, 2000, 2013) and projections (2025) from 2015 IEA WEO (panel b). Data Source: Edmonds and Reilly and IEA.
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Historic data for global wind power generation in 2005–2013 and projections for 2015–2030. Data Source: IEA WEOs from 2006 to 2015.
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Historic data for installed solar generation capacity in 2000–2014 and projections for 2015–2035. Figure Source: MIT.
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Coal use projections. Data Source: (a) IEA, (b) ExxonMobil, (c) BP.
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Oil use projections. Data Source: (a) IEA, (b) ExxonMobil, (c) BP.
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Natural gas use projections. Data Source: (a) IEA, (b) ExxonMobil, (c) BP.
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Historic oil prices for 2010–2014 and projected oil prices for 2015–2040. Data source: IEA, EIA.
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Projected and actual oil price for 2010. Projections are from the IEA World Energy Outlooks for 1994–2008 (there was no Outlook in 1997 and the 2003 Outlook used 2002 projections).
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Projected and actual oil price for 2015. Data Source: IEA World Energy Outlooks for 1998–2014 (the 2003 Outlook used 2002 projections).
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Energy and Climate > Systems and Infrastructure
Energy Policy and Planning > Economics and Policy

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