Energy in 2040

We are still drafting our energy vision for 2040 in consultation with the Brain Trust, but we would welcome the Community’s input on the following bullet points:

  • Humanity is tracking with its commitments to halt global warming and increase energy equity by fully decarbonizing/de-fossilizing all energy uses.
  • Increase the overall share of sustainable sources and energy storage.
  • Existing infrastructure is revised, rather than rebuilt.
  • The industrial sector is fully decarbonized/de-fossilized (e.g., cement, steel industries) and efficient.
  • Long-haul transportation is fully decarbonized/de-fossilized (e.g., long-range trucks, shipping, aviation, train) and efficient.
  • Buildings and construction sectors are fully decarbonized/de-fossilized and efficient.
  • Energy use in agriculture and land use is fully decarbonized/de-fossilized and efficient.
  • Centralized and decentralized energy infrastructure are integrated, facilitating secure, reliable, resilient energy supply.
  • Increase the amount of energy available per capita in the developing world, improve efficiency in the developed world.
  • Significant strides have been made towards the electrification of the global economy.

In addition to your feedback, we welcome recommendations for data points to substantiate this vision.

The next step is understanding the barriers to our vision, so we can ideate breakthroughs.


I offer the following bullet point:
Greatly improved efficiency in buildings and transportation–the low-hanging fruit


This integration would be critical!

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I would argue that one of the largest barriers to the above vision is the return on energy invested. The greatest lever for universal prosperity is low cost, plentiful energy - energy underlies everything humanity does. In addition to secure, reliable and resilient energy supply you need to be able to ensure that those that need the energy can afford it. As of 2018, the US had an average energy consumption per capita of 9kW whereas the world-wide average is 1.8kW and there are somewhere around a billion people that are effectively at zero. In order to ensure that all of us are prosperous the cost of new energy needs to be at worst where we are today - and while utility-scale solar is making headlines with subsidized costs at very low values, that is in regions where solar is plentiful and have the infrastructure to support the intermittency. Most of the rest of the world’s population has less than half the solar availability that the low latitudes do. Decarbonizing amounts to finding sustainable energy for 85% of the world’s energy that is fossil fuels - scaling to that level without requiring all-new infrastructure means drop-in replacements for many applications that aren’t electrified and at costs that are at parity with the energy costs when economic growth was highest - costs that we haven’t seen since the 1960s. It is a huge task, but there are paths to get there - nuclear and space solar power are the only two that can scale.


@ErnieRogers Thank you, could you elaborate a little on your idea for improved efficiency in buildings specifically? Buildings are a substantial energy user (1/3) and emitter of emissions (over 40% if indirect emissions are included) that addressing this sector would have a huge impact. I’m particularly curious about your views vis-a-vis retrofitting existing buildings.

Thank you @Jesse_Nyokabi, I agree, we see increasing threats to reliable supply in face of increasing demand, higher share of variable resources, and the growing interface between centralized-decentralized. Do you think this is feasible by 2040? what must happen between now and then for this vision to realize?

Thank you @JohnBucknell, for your detailed reply; it was interesting to read. It is so important to acknowledge the importance of addressing continued economic development as we talk about decarbonization. Your comment is relevant to many of the bullet points, but I’m specifically curious for your thoughts about “Increase the amount of energy available per capita in the developing world, improve efficiency in the developed world.” There is a sense of driving a global equilibrium or equitable distribution – is that feasible? When thinking of the potential of solutions such as cold fusion, space-based solar, green hydrogen – is this a priority for 2040 or beyond?

Advanced SMRs all the way!! You make some excellent points that really get washed over by the press.
As we press for more and more electrification of our energy needs we MUST focus on cost, efficiency and 24/7 availability - highest energy dense projects (like SMRs) are truly needed - IMHO

Hi, Eti,
Okay, brainstorming about buildings. (I live in a zero-carbon building.)
1. Be self-contained. Solar plus storage (heat pump to storage or battery).
2. Change zoning to allow large homes to be split into multiple units.
3. Use zone heat pumps where advantageous to lower energy use.
4. Seal up leaks. Feel cold air coming through wall plugs? Leaky vents?
5. Insulate inside of exterior walls. (One inch of foam, then wallboard.)
6. Insulate and berm concrete walls where practical.
7. Blow in insulation where practical.
8. Get a new thermostat with more choices for setback
9. Get low-transmission paint for roof and walls where practical–saves tons
10. Windows can be a problem. Replace? Add a layer? Add shutters (I did).
11. Get a thermal survey (ask the utility). Watch for heat leaks on wall top plate.
12. A deciduous tree gives shade in summer, allows sun in winter.
13. Awnings can keep away heat in summer.
14. Wind breaks (many kinds) will reduce winter heat load.
15. Wear clothes appropriate to weather–you can handle less temp. control.
16. Winter–warm socks and shoes, and a scarf make a big difference.
17. Keep healthy, eat well according to season.
18. Be kind to others, feel warm inside. :slightly_smiling_face:

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