Natural gas will play a key role whatever the policy landscape

International Energy Agency : Economist, engineer
With the assumed resumption of global economic growth from 2010, demand for natural gas worldwide is set to resume its long-term upwards trend, though the pace of demand growth hinges critically on the strength of climate policy action.
Constraints on the rate at which low-carbon technologies can be deployed, and the low carbon content of gas relative to coal and oil, mean that gas demand will continue to expand, even in the 450 Scenario. In the Reference Scenario, global gas demand rises from 3.0 trillion cubic metres (tcm) in 2007 to 4.3 tcm in 2030 — an average rate of increase of 1.5% per year. The share of gas in the global primary energy mix increases marginally, from 20.9% in 2007 to 21.2% in 2030. Over 80% of the increase in gas use between 2007 and 2030 occurs in non-OECD countries, with the biggest rise occurring in the Middle East. India and China see the most rapid rates of increase. The power sector is expected to remain the largest driver of gas demand in all regions. The outlook to 2015 differs markedly from the longer-term picture. Although only partial and preliminary data on gas demand are available for 2008 and early 2009, it is likely that, worldwide, primary gas demand will fall in 2009 — perhaps by as much as 3% — as a result of the economic contraction. On the assumption that the economy begins to recover by 2010, global demand is projected to rebound. On average, it grows by 2.5% per year between 2010 and 2015. Supply capacity is set to grow faster. In the 450 Scenario, world primary gas demand grows by 17% between 2007 and 2030, but is 17% lower in 2030 compared with the Reference Scenario. Demand continues to grow in most non-OECD regions through to 2030, but some regions see a decline after 2020. Measures to encourage energy savings, by improving the efficiency of gas use and encouraging low-carbon technologies, reduce gas demand. This more than offsets the enhanced competitiveness of gas against coal and oil in power generation and end-use applications that results from higher carbon prices and regulatory instruments. Gas demand in OECD countries generally peaks by around the middle of the projection period in this scenario and then declines through to 2030, as generators switch investment mainly to renewables and nuclear power capacity. The United States sees higher gas use than in the Reference Scenario in the last decade of the Outlook period, largely because gas becomes more competitive against coal.

WEO 2009