It’s hard to imagine a world without energy in the 21st Century. The lights in the office, to the buses we take, and even the mobile phones we use today, are all powered by energy. But have you stopped to envision how different the world might be 30 years from now?

‘’For many years, experts have tried to predict oil prices. We have learnt that they can be and generally are wrong,’’ said VP GR Asia-pacific Doug Mckay at an introductory session to Shell scenarios on 5 December last year. “The oil industry is one of immense volatility, and this is where scenarios come in handy.”

Doug and Senior Energy Adviser Valery Chow spoke to a group of university students as part of a kick-off training session for the Imagine the Future Competition. Teams of four to five members each are required to develop scenarios based on the focal question: “More and cleaner energy in urban Asian homes in 2050: How we live, work and play”.

Participating students came from a range of schools and fields, including the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Renaissance Engineering Programme and Singapore Management University’s (SMU) School of Social Sciences. This mix in participants proved to be beneficial in the discussions to come.

“Different people bring in a different lens when analysing the situation. This is crucial considering the fact that energy is not solely influenced by technology and resources, but a whole range of other variables as well,” said Doug. He highlighted the interconnection between factors like technology, environment, economics, society and politics in affecting global energy use and demand.

Imagination was certainly alive in the room as participants discussed the possibility of how the world could be like in the future. Some interesting scenarios they explored included the concept of working anytime and anywhere, and living in a ‘bubble’ where one’s social needs are satisfied as long as he or she has internet connection. Participants also had a thought-provoking discussion on how a global war could spur technological innovation or lead to an energy shortage.

Valery was heartened by how the session turned out. “We’re usually conditioned to think that the world won’t turn out that differently, but in scenarios, we should try to push boundaries. The only acid test is that the audience you present your scenarios to must believe that the scenario is plausible,” he said.

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