Oil prices could fall to as low as $10 per barrel within a decade as a “tsunami” of threats could undo demand.
That prediction comes from Engie SA’s innovation chief, Thierry Lepercq, who says that oil demand will be hit on multiple fronts. He lays out five tsunamis: solar power, battery storage, electric vehicles, “smart” buildings, and cheap hydrogen. “Even if oil demand continues to climb until 2025, its price could drop to $10 if markets anticipate a significant fall in demand,” Lepercq told Bloomberg in an interview. Solar, battery storage, electrical and hydrogen vehicles, and connected devices are in a ‘J’ curve,” he added. “Hydrogen is the missing link in a 100 percent renewable-energy system, but technological bricks already exist.”
Engie SA, formerly GDF Suez, is a French utility company that held coal and natural gas generation assets but has increasingly been moving into renewables and energy services. The cost of renewables will continue to decline while capacity ramps up. Lepercq asserts that renewables, EVs, and battery storage are on a ‘J’ curve because all of them feed into each other. The cost of solar could drop under $10 per megawatt-hour in less than a decade, making it the cheapest source of electricity. At the same time, falling costs for battery storage makes solar even more competitive. Cheaper batteries will also make EVs cost competitive with traditional passenger vehicles. “As carmakers offer more electrical vehicles with a range exceeding 500 kilometers, charging stations being progressively deployed and more cities banning gasoline and diesel cars, a shift will progressively take place,” he said.
His prediction is in line with a growing number of estimates that predict a faster adoption of renewables and EVs than previously anticipated. For example, just a few weeks ago Wood Mackenzie estimated that electric vehicles could erase 10 percent of global gasoline demand by 2035. That would kill off between 1 and 2 million barrels of oil demand per day. WoodMac also estimates that EVs are already displacing about 50,000 bpd today. The IEA put out a less optimistic projection last month, predicting absolute growth in oil demand through 2040.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg New Energy Finance might be the most bullish of all on EVs, offering a scenario earlier this year in which EVs cut into global oil demand by about 13 mb/d by 2040, enough to probably keep oil prices from ever reaching $100 per barrel again.
For now, demand is still rising, and fluctuations in the pace of consumption depends much more on short-term factors, such as oil prices and the health of the global economy. The IEA says that 2017 will see demand growth drop to just 1.3 mb/d, the lowest expansion in several years.
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