Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Modeling the long-term future of global energy sources and demand was a fraught and dicey thing even before the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, but we're about to see a bunch of analysts take their best swings.

Driving the news: Next week BP will unveil the big annual look-ahead to 2050, while next month will bring midcentury outlooks from the International Energy Agency and the Energy Information Administration.

Why it matters: These big reports will provide a fresh look at how experts are weighing the ripple effects of the COVID-19 crisis that has upended energy markets and demand this year.

  • But long-term outcomes are packed with uncertainties around things like the future of remote work, the energy-related provisions of governments' economic recovery plans, and a lot more.

Of note: Analysts who do these exercises will tell you that they're far from omniscient. But these big reports are a stab at grappling with what's ahead and, in some of them, what would need to happen to slash emissions.

What they're saying: "The pandemic is further increasing the uncertainty of our forecasting," Sverre Alvik, program director for energy transition with the risk advisory firm DNV GL, tells me via email.

What we don't know: "Economic stimulus packages from politicians around the world has the potential to speed up or slow down the transition, and 6-8 months after the outbreak, we don’t know which direction these will go (at the moment we see a lot of both, in sum making it a neutral impulse for the time being)," he said.

  • "And human behavior is very likely to permanently change, but we don’t have yet an overview of the extent of this."

What's new: DNV GL yesterday released the full version of their annual Energy Transition Outlook that looks out to 2050. A few takeaway projections...

  • CO2 emissions peaked last year, but future declines are nowhere near enough to meet the Paris Agreement goals.
  • The world is on track for warming of 2.3°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century.
  • Crude oil use "likely" peaked last year, an inflection point brought forward by COVID-19.
  • Natural gas will become the world's largest energy source this decade and remain so until 2050, despite the renewables surge. "However, only 13% of natural gas used in 2050 will be decarbonized."
  • Overall, global energy demand will recover from the pandemic-fueled decline, but it's still an inflection point.
  • Demand levels from now until 2050 "will be from a lower base" — meaning it will fluctuate 6% to 8% below pre-COVID forecasts.
One possible transportation future
Reproduced from DNV GL; Chart: Axios Visuals

The DNV GL outlook sees declining energy demand from transportation as electrification increases in the coming years and decades.

  • "Transport is ... one of the great engines of the energy transition, where electrons gain primacy over molecules of fossil fuel."

Go deeper

Updated Sep 17, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: The economics of renewable energy

On Thursday, September 17, Axios' Amy Harder hosted a conversation on the growth of clean energy and sustainability, featuring Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Amazon's Head of Worldwide Sustainability Kara Hurst.

Gov. Inslee discussed efforts within Washington to address climate change, its impact on fires in Washington state and the role of renewable energy in the state.

  • On the role of climate change in recent fires: "These fires are incredibly cataclysmic. The solution to this, of course...[is that] we need to reduce this climate change. It is the ultimately cataclysmic situation we face in Washington."
  • On President Trump's attitude to renewable energy: "He has tried to throw up a roadblock against any development of renewables industries. He's got an allergy to good ideas and infatuation with deception. He's downplayed climate change, just like he downplayed COVID."

Kara Hurst unpacked Amazon's aims to hit carbon neutrality in 2040 and its efforts to help companies develop climate-friendly technologies through a $2 billion venture fund.

  • On partnering with oil and gas producers to achieve climate change goals: "Amazon, like every other company you just mentioned — Google, Microsoft, many tech companies — works across a wide variety of industries. And I believe it's absolutely necessary to work with those types of industries to create transformation."
  • On recent research at Amazon on the sustainability of online shopping: "Online grocery deliveries can generate 43% lower carbon emissions per item as compared to shopping in stores."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Vinson & Elkins Head of Renewables Practice Group Kaam Sahely, who discussed the surge in demand for renewable energy and the growth of the sector.

  • "The demand [for renewable energy] is almost insatiable. It's not that it's completely without regards to government regulation...The demand for renewable energy continues to rise."

Thank you Vinson & Elkins for sponsoring this event.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Sep 19, 2020 - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

Big Tech takes the climate change lead

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Getty Images photo: Jit Chattopadhyay/Pacific Press/LightRocket

The tech industry is playing a growing role in fighting climate change, from zero-carbon commitments to investments in startups and pushing for the use of data to encourage energy efficiency.

Why it matters: Big Tech is already dominating our economy, politics and culture. Its leadership in helping to address climate change — and reckon with its role in contributing to it — could have similarly transformative impacts.

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Where key GOP senators stand on replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters on Capitol Hill last Thursday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

With President Trump planning to nominate his third Supreme Court justice nominee this week, key Republican senators are indicating their stance on replacing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with less than 50 days until Election Day.

The state of play: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has vowed that "Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." Two GOP senators — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — have said they oppose holding a vote before the election, meaning that two more defections would force McConnell to delay until at least the lame-duck session of Congress.