When it comes to the world’s future energy landscape, there are many unanswered questions: How will the Fukushima nuclear disaster affect nations’ energy choices? Will a weak global economy hamper investment in new energy sources? How will the surge in natural gas production impact the evolution of other energy sources? Can energy conservation alone meet future energy demand?
To address some of these questions and better understand global attitudes about energy, APCO Insight™, APCO’s opinion research division, recently conducted a survey of more than 1,400 opinion leaders from eight bellwether nations: the United States, China, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Mark Benson, Insight chairman, unveiled some of the findings during a panel discussion at the recent V Astana Economic Forum in Astana, Kazakhstan.
- Favorability and expectations for renewable energy like solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass remain high and are widely favored over fossil fuels and nuclear energy. In fact, renewable energy sources receive majority support among no less than 71 percent of survey respondents.
- Traditional fossil fuels like oil and natural gas remain important as they are believed to be more significant contributors to national economies than other energy sources. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, opinion leaders are taking a practical response to the uncertainty of energy supply. Support for energy sources that are more immediately scalable, such as hydrocarbons like oil, coal and natural gas, surged even as interest in renewables remained strong.
- Nonetheless, majorities in all countries place a high priority on more fully developing solar and hydropower energy resources. Solar, wind and hydroelectric energy sources enjoyed the strongest support across a range of energy sources and countries.
- Among the more interesting findings in the study is the distinction drawn between natural gas and other fossil fuels. Opinion leaders rate natural gas as a significantly higher priority than nuclear, coal or oil and recognize that gas is an essential contributor to their country’s economic prosperity. As Mark Benson noted in his presentation, this is an indication of what the International Energy Agency has called a “Golden Age of Gas.” Natural gas has dramatically changed how opinion leaders perceive the global energy portfolio. While favorability for renewables is high, many also believe the gas sector currently offers something that renewables don’t – a direct linkage to economic growth. (See chart below which depicts the “importance vs. economic contribution” dynamic of natural gas).
In the meantime, our team is keen to hear your thoughts – do you think the economic contribution of natural gas should trump the overall importance of renewables? Will hydropower emerge as a “sleeper” energy fuel and play a greater role in our energy mix going forward?
You tell us – what will be the future of energy?
Disclaimer: APCO works with clients that have interests across the energy spectrum, from traditional fossil fuel industries to new renewable energy sources.