World of clean, reliable, and safe energy is not around the corner. In fact, according to the information compiled by Looking Ahead: The 50 Global Trends That Matter, an annual compendium of data and graphics on subjects ranging from economics to demography to energy, the majority of the planet’s electricity needs will still be fueled by coal and natural gas in 2040—despite strong growth in nonhydro renewables such as wind, solar, and geothermal. The report also expects the shale phenomenon to abate, with Saudi Arabia reasserting itself as the world’s leading oil producer by 2030.
McKinsey does not necessarily agree with everything in this report (to see our research on the future of energy, visit our Electric Power & Natural Gas site). But the material in Looking Ahead—whose stated intention is to set out the best available information from a wide variety of sources, including governments, consultancies, think tanks, corporations, and multilateral institutions—is worth taking seriously. The overriding aim of the publication is to highlight issues that matter in compelling visualizations that make it easier for readers to grasp a large amount of data—and thus better understand both the nature of the problems the world faces and how to address them.