Global energy demand is expected to rise dramatically as the world's population grows, economies flourish, and standards of living increase, enabling greater access to modern energy. By 2040, consumption is projected to increase by more than 56 percent worldwide, with the industrial sector accounting for over half of this energy usage, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Although more than 1.3 billion people globally still lack access to electricity, this number is predicted to change, especially in countries with emerging economies, such as India and China. Demand in China alone is expected to increase by 75 percent by 2035.
The environmental ramifications of this evolving energy picture are significant. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase 46 percent to 45 billion metric tons by 2040, according to the EIA's International Energy Outlook 2013. Unless leading nations make concerted efforts to curb their growing carbon footprints, global warming forecasts will continue to remain ominous.
Germany has long been a recognized leader in environmental protection and clean energy initiatives. The country currently receives almost a quarter of its energy from renewables. By 2025, it plans to have increased this number to 45 percent. While Germany currently imports 70 percent of its energy, its national energy policy, the Energiewende, strives to reduce this import dependence as a means of heightening power security. The policy, a mix of market-based instruments and regulation, was designed to tackle climate change, diminish and eliminate the risk of nuclear power, and stimulate technology innovation in the green economy.
Leveraging the economic and environmental potential of a diverse renewable energy portfolio is part of Germany's national innovation strategy. The government recently established its "National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030," for example, to expedite a structural shift from a petroleum-based to a sustainable bio-based economy. The country's bioeconomy sector aims to capitalize on the versatility of biomass, which can provide heat, electricity, and motor fuel. As a result, biomass is expected to compose nearly two-thirds of Germany's renewable energy consumption by 2020.