Forecasts, Scenarios and Outlooks. Perspectives on our Energy Future. Holmes Hummel

Canadian Parliament’s Honorable Stephané Dion frames the afternoon presentations for YCEI’s Fifth Annual Conference by summarizing the stark and constantly growing challenge of reducing CO2 emissions even as energy demand grows.  

The first presenter is Holmes Hummel, a protege of panelists Zhang Xiliang and Dr. Nakocenovic, and recent Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy.  Holmes discusses various “species of analytic tools” that the DOE and others use to anticipate the future energy landscape.

DOE forecasts, Holmes says, are a response to the immediate needs of different government agencies.  Based on market conditions, they often represent group-think and may have limited short-term utility.  “Outlooks” answer a different question over a longer time frame, assuming that prevailing conditions persist. They are inevitably wrong, Holmes says, but are a good gage of level of ambition and potential for contribution. “Scenarios” involve longer term projections involving dramatically different prevailing conditions from the ones that have brought us to the crossroads we find ourselves at today.

As an example, Holmes review an International Energy Agency scenario that backcasts changes necessary to reduce CO2 emissions as required to limit global warming to 2 degrees Centigrade: By 2075, the energy sector’s carbon footprint must be eliminated, an achievement described as highly uncertain and which will require technologies not yet developed if we are to get there.


July 25, 2014