The progressive reduction of high-quality-easy-to-extract energy is a widely recognized and already ongoing process. Although depletion studies for individual fuels are relatively abundant, few of them offer a global perspective of all energy sources and their potential future developments, and even fewer include the demand of the socio-economic system.
This paper presents an Economy-Energy-Environment model based on System Dynamics which integrates all those aspects: the physical restrictions (with peak estimations for oil, gas, coal and uranium), the techno-sustainable potential of renewable energy estimated by a novel top-down methodology, the socio-economic energy demands, the development of alternative technologies and the net CO2 emissions.
We confront our model with the basic assumptions of previous Global Environmental Assessment (GEA) studies. The results show that demand-driven evolution, as performed in the past, might be unfeasible: strong energy-supply scarcity is found in the next two decades, especially in the transportation sector before 2020. Electricity generation is unable to fulfill its demand in 2025–2040, and a large expansion of electric renewable energies move us close to their limits. In order to find achievable scenarios, we are obliged to set hypotheses which are hardly used in GEA scenarios, such as zero or negative economic growth.
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