The solar manufacturing industry is now a highly competitive industry. Solar module companies that can’t compete are dropping like icicles on a warm spring day. Shell dropped out of the solar module race in 2006, giving its solar business to SolarWorld.Nonetheless, Shell is still quite bullish on solar energy in the long term. In one of the two future energy scenarios it just released (the New Lens Scenarios), it projected that solar would become the largest source of energy by 2070.
Solar industry enthusiasts (which I assume most of you are) know that solar power has grown tremendously in the past several years — to be specific, from about 1 gigawatt (GW) in 2000 to about 102 GW at the end of 2012. It is still a small piece of the energy or even electricity pie, but it’s growing fast. And, most importantly, it looks like it will have a very bright future.
In both of Shell’s new scenarios, which are led by Jeremy Bentham (Vice President Business Environment and Head of Shell Scenarios), the company sees global CO2 emissions dropping to zero by 2100, but through very different means. In the first, its projection is that solar will account for 37.7% of primary energy use by 2100. The company is also bullish on natural gas, electric vehicles, hydrogen (as a transportation fuel source and resource for electricity storage), biofuels, and wind power (compared to other energy sources). But there’s much more to the story than these simple statements.
Oceans & Mountains
The report includes some interesting discussions of the increasing competition between the U.S. and China; globalization, and some of the complex issues that come with that; three paradoxes, which it calles the prosperity paradox, the connectivity paradox, and the leadership paradox; the structure of the global economy; and other interesting matters.
Following that setting of the stage, Bentham and his team at Shell delve in its two new scenarios — Oceans and Mountains. They write: “These scenarios are designed to provide new lenses through which to explore these issues – or, as we explore these contrasting worlds, two panoramas: high Mountains where the beneﬁts of an elevated position are exercised and protected, and those who are currently inﬂuential hold on to power; and wide Oceans with rising tides, strong currents, and a volatile churn of actors and events with an irregular accommodation of competing interests. These panoramas have distinctive social, economic, and political features that can be discerned over the next 20 years or so, with consequences for energy developments over half a century. Together these shape ecological outlooks beyond 2100. They form the New Lens Scenarios for the 21st century.”
For those of us concerned about societal suicide through climate change, neither scenario is particularly optimistic. In Mountains, world temperatures increase well beyond 2°C by 2050 (a politically agreed upon target that is still concerning in the level of catastrophe it brings to humanity). Really, the Mountains scenario relies on a great deal of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the second half of the century in order to reach zero net CO2 emissions by 2100: