Shell says cheap renewable energy still far off

Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:35am EST
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By Mark Trevelyan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The world faces a doubling of energy demand by 2050 but renewable sources are still too expensive and will take decades to make a big impact, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer said on Thursday.

In a speech on "Shell scenarios for the 21st century," van der Veer said one of the three hard truths facing the world was a big rise in demand as the global population rose from around six billion to nine billion by mid-century.

He told the EastWest Institute think-tank in Brussels that Shell saw "about 50 percent more demand for energy in the world in the coming 25 years, and a doubling of energy (demand) by 2050."

The second hard truth was that most renewable energy sources were still far too expensive, even compared with higher prices for oil, gas and coal.

"Renewables are still too expensive. They will come, I'm not self-serving, I'm not defensive but it will take a very long time" either to achieve the technological breakthroughs required or to build many more nuclear power stations, van der Veer said.

"You see that we have a lot of tensions. The world demands more energy," he added. "Renewables may come to a solution but it will take decades before it is big."

The third truth was that the reserves of oil and gas that were easily accessible and close to the markets where they were required, were depleting. Extracting new supplies would require much larger investments per unit than in the past.