Skip to main content

Practical energy choices

This year’s Outlook highlights the ubiquitous nature of energy. Like no other commodity, energy touches every aspect of modern life, providing tremendous benefits to individuals and businesses around the world.

The convenience and reliability of modern energy are often taken for granted. But providing energy wherever and whenever people need it is not easy or automatic. The benefits we get from every flip of a light switch — or turn of an engine key or push of an “on” button – reflect decades of scientific advancement and enormous levels of investment.

Over the past century, advances in technologies have fundamentally changed our world. There has also been a dramatic evolution of energy needs and energy supplies. In recent decades, even as global energy needs reached unprecedented levels of scale and complexity, technology enabled consumers to choose from an increasingly diverse set of energy sources.

In this lies a simple fact: good, practical options to meet people’s energy needs continue to expand. 

The need for energy will continue to grow as economies expand, living standards rise and the world’s population grows by more than 25 percent through 2040. Global demand for energy is projected to rise by about 35 percent from 2010 to 2040.

To meet this demand in the most effective and economic way, none of our energy options should be arbitrarily denied, dismissed, penalized or promoted. And free trade opportunities should be facilitated – not curtailed.

Governments must continue to foster the innovation and free markets that have always been the source of benefits for individuals and societies. Both public and private institutions can assist this process by promoting information sharing, sound cost/benefit analysis, and transparent legislative and regulatory processes. These elements are important for promoting economic growth, competitiveness, energy security and environmental protection.

Free markets supported by reliable public policies remain essential to creating economic opportunities and encouraging the private-sector investments that are critical to meeting people’s energy needs. According to the IEA, energy investments worldwide will need to total about $37 trillion over 2012 to 2035.

Individuals will also continue to play a major role in shaping the energy future as they make choices in pursuing their personal needs and ambitions.

One of the significant choices being made by energy consumers is their continued adoption of energysaving behaviors and technologies. Whether that choice is a more advanced wood-burning stove, LED lighting, a next-generation laptop computer, lightweight materials or a hybrid vehicle, gains in efficiency are one of the most effective ways to ensure the continued flow of reliable and affordable energy as our population grows and prosperity expands.

Since everyone needs energy, it is important that everyone understands the challenges related to these energy needs. Deepening public understanding of energy issues is our goal in publishing the Outlook for Energy each year. Ensuring that people have access to the energy they need to improve their lives motivates our work.

Meeting the world's energy challenges means helping billions of people raise their living standards, while also reducing the impact of energy use on the environment.

The scale of our world’s energy challenges is enormous, but so is human capacity for innovation and the will to succeed. By expanding technology and energy options – and by creating the political and fiscal environments that allow innovation and market solutions to thrive – we are optimistic that the world will be able to safely and responsibly expand prosperity and security.