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Energy in 25 years: Who's producing, who's buying

Growth in energy consumption will take place almost entirely in the developing world over the next 25 years, a period during which the planet will see huge shifts on both the usage and supply sides of the energy equation, according to the latest annual global energy forecast from BP.

A cement factory releasing heavy smoke in Binzhou, China.
AFP | Getty Images
A cement factory releasing heavy smoke in Binzhou, China.

Energy consumption will increase by 41 percent from 2012 to 2035—compared with 52 percent growth over the last 20 years. Some 95 percent of that growth is expected to come from emerging countries, while energy use in the developed world will grow much more slowly, and then decline.

The mix of fuel is also expected to shift, with fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal each making up 26 to 27 percent of the total mix by 2035, and the rest coming from nuclear, hydroelectricity and renewable sources.

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Increased efficiency is helping to reduce the pace of demand growth, a trend that's expected to continue. As 2035 approaches, many advanced economies will continue to grow overall, even as their energy use falls, according to BP's projections.

Fossil fuels will continue to play a major role for the foreseeable future. BP's forecasters expect global carbon dioxide emissions to rise by 29 percent through 2035, with all of that coming from emerging economies. That growth will be offset by a shift to cleaner-burning natural gas. Emissions are expected to decline in Europe and the United States.

The future of the supply side

On the supply side, an increase in the production of oil and other liquids (including biofuels) in the next two decades is expected to come mainly from the Americas and Middle East. More than half of that will be from non-OPEC sources, with rising production from U.S. "tight" oil—light, crude oil contained in shale—Canadian oil sands, Brazilian deep water and biofuels more than offsetting declining production elsewhere.

BP's outlook sees the United States overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of liquids this year, helping reduce U.S. oil imports by nearly 75 percent between 2012 and 2035.

North American shale gas production growth is expected to slow after 2020 and output from other regions to increase, but by 2035 North America is still expected to account for 71 percent of world shale gas production.

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As demand shifts to cleaner fuels, growth in coal consumption is expected slow to less than 1 percent a year after 2020. By 2035, nearly all the growth is expected to come from China and India, whose combined demand will consumer roughly two-thirds of all coal produced by 2035.

While renewable energy is expected show the fastest growth—more than 6 percent a year—it's building on the smallest base. By 2035, the overall share of power generated by renewable sources will nearly triple to 14 percent.