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The world of energy in 2050

Release date: 15 March 2018

Computers and robots are set to transform energy, bringing us more affordable fuel and power, revolutionising how we travel and helping to lower carbon emissions
2018 Cityscape

By 2050, we could see millions of self-driving cars on the roads, homes heated by smart boilers and a much more efficient energy industry.


These are just some of the potential features of the world as pictured in BP’s Technology Outlook 2018. It shows how robotics, artificial intelligence and increasing digitization, are set to make energy and travel more varied and affordable in the coming decades. Here’s how:

 

More, cheaper, safer, greener cars

The costs of electric vehicles – both fully electric cars and hybrids that use both liquid fuel and electric motors – are likely to converge with those of conventional vehicles by 2050, largely due to an estimated 75% fall in the costs of batteries.

It also looks possible that more than 40% of all vehicle kilometres driven in 2050 could be travelled in self-driving cars. Around a quarter of those miles may be travelled in shared vehicles, including driverless taxis.

 

A digital revolution in oil and gas production

The Outlook projects that technology advances could drive down the unit cost of production per barrel by around 30% by 2050, with digitization leading to around a third of the savings, particularly through artificial intelligence and cognitive computing.

Oil and gas are cost competitive, and hence a major component of the world's energy systems today, but alternatives could catch up by 2050, in at least some sectors. Renewable power is already growing fast and BP’s analysis suggests that its costs will continue fall to 2050.

 

Wind on the up

In 2050, wind power is set to be the cheapest form of new-build electricity generation with gas and solar not far behind. However, wind and sunshine are variable and will need back-up from other sources, including from gas-fired power.

 

Watch the animation

The major findings from BP's Technology Outlook 2018 are presented in this short animation, which highlights how technological advances can drive down the costs of wind and solar power and slow the rise in carbon emissions.

 

Emissions growth checked Progress in energy technology alone – such as in renewables and electrification - could lead to carbon emissions rising by only 15% between 2015 and 2050, compared with around 70% in the last 35 years. However, to achieve emissions reductions consistent with meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement’s objectives, action would be needed to accelerate the progress of technology further. The modelling indicates that the power sector is the cheapest to decarbonise, using renewables, nuclear and carbon capture use and storage (CCUS), followed by transport and heating.
David Eyton,Group head of technology

 

Push for carbon pricing

The Outlook projects that decarbonized gas power, using CCUS, would become competitive with conventional gas power stations if there was a carbon price approaching $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide.

 

The 2018 Outlook reports on three years of research by BP’s group technology team and its partners in universities and institutes, using modelling and analysis to look at the potential impact of technology advances on energy production, power, transport and heat in China, Europe and North America. The Outlook considers the potential impact of advances in technology throughout the global energy system to 2050, without predicting policy.The 2018 version is the second such Outlook, the first having been published in 2015.

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