New technologies and trustworthy predictions create the energy of the future

19 april 2017

At the Energy of the Future: New Look at Technologies that Change the World conference, Analytical Center expert Irina Pominova talked about what impact energy forecasts can have on technological development.

No modeling is done for revolutionary technologies in the energy sector; moreover, most experts believe they are highly unlikely. No technological breakthroughs get modeled as alternative scenarios, according to Ms. Pominova. Comparative analysis of technological breakthrough scenarios and specialized forecasts helps identify those lines of technological development in the energy sector that are deemed most likely by experts.

Traditionally, technology is viewed as a basic variable for making long-term development forecasts in the energy sector. Most forecasts, including the most trustworthy ones, rely on known technologies with allowance for the natural course of science and technology progress and most prominent current trends. According to the expert, the number of specialized tech forecasts is also on the rise at the moment; these include, for example, the Energy Technology Prospects forecast by the International Energy Agency or BP's Technology Forecast.  

As far as energy supply is concerned, attention is focused on technologies that allow companies to improve production performance by reducing costs. For non-renewable energy sources, these include exploring hard-to-get-to resources, and specifically gas-hydrate deposits. For renewable sources, the goal is to break even and develop energy storage technologies. On the demand side, there is continued promotion of energy conservation and smart energy system, introduction of more environmentally friendly transport solutions such as electric vehicles, Ms. Pominova believes.  

In her opinion, those are the most common expectations, while some isolated projections and the most reputable forecasts serve as a signal for decision makers at the state and corporate levels as well as for investors. In this manner, forecasts translate into real life decisions. The International Energy Agency is a case in point. In early 2010s, it started using as its baseline forecast a model that takes into account the intentions that countries have regarding combating climate change. This soon turned in a kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy as more and more decision makers began to view this as the most likely scenario even though in reality it only became real after the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.