1. Home
  2. Energy economics
  3. Energy Outlook
  4. Global backdrop

Global backdrop

Global economic growth is driven by increasing prosperity in developing economies, led by China and India

The world economy continues to grow, driven by increasing prosperity in the developing world.

 

In the ET scenario, global GDP grows around 3¼% p.a. (on a Purchasing Power Parity basis) – a little weaker than average growth over the past 20 years or so.

Increase in global GDP, 2017-2040
Increase in global GDP, 2017-2040
Global GDP growth and regional contributions
Global GDP growth and regional contributions

Global output is partly supported by population growth, with the world population increasing by around 1.7 billion to reach nearly 9.2 billion people in 2040.

 

But the vast majority of world growth is driven by increasing productivity (i.e. GDP per head), which accounts for almost 80% of the global expansion and lifts more than 2½ billion people from low incomes. The emergence of a large and growing middle class in the developing world is an increasingly important force shaping global economic and energy trends.


Billions of people move from low-incomes driving global economic growth and energy demand

 

Developing economies account for over 80% of the expansion in world output, with China and India accounting for around half of that growth.

 

Africa continues to be weighed down by weak productivity, accounting for almost half of the increase in global population, but less than 10% of world GDP growth.

Higher living standards drive increases in energy demand, partly offset by substantial gains in energy intensity

Increase in primary energy demand, 2017-2040
Increase in primary energy demand, 2017-2040
Contributions to primary energy demand growth
Contributions to primary energy demand growth

Expansion in global output and prosperity drives growth in global energy demand.

 

Energy consumption in the ET scenario increases by around a third over the Outlook. As with GDP growth, the vast majority of this increase stems from increasing prosperity, as billions of people move from low to middle incomes, allowing them to increase substantially their energy consumption per head.

 

The overall growth in energy demand is materially offset by declines in energy intensity (energy used per unit of GDP) as the world increasingly learns to produce more with less: global GDP more than doubles over the Outlook, but energy consumption increases by only a third.

 

Global energy grows at an average rate of 1.2% p.a. in the ET scenario, down from over 2% p.a. in the previous 20 years or so. This weaker growth reflects both slower population growth and faster improvements in energy intensity.

 

Despite significant growth in prosperity and energy consumption over the next 20 years, a substantial proportion of the world’s population in the ET scenario still consumes relatively low levels of energy in 2040. The need for the world to produce ‘more energy’ as well as ‘less carbon’ is discussed below.

Alternative scenario – more energy

The world needs ‘more energy’ to allow global living standards to continue to improve

Human development index and energy consumption per head, 2017
Human development index and energy consumption per head, 2017
Source: UN 2018
Share of world population consuming less than 100 Gigajoules per head
Share of world population consuming less than 100 Gigajoules per head

There is a strong link between human progress and energy consumption.

 

The United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) suggests that increases in energy consumption up to around 100 Gigajoules (GJ) per head are associated with substantial increases in human development and well-being, after which the relationship flattens out.

 

Around 80% of the world’s population today live in countries where average energy consumption is less than 100 GJ per head. In the ET scenario, this proportion is still around two-thirds even by 2040. In the alternative ‘More energy’ scenario this share is reduced to one-third by 2040. This requires around 25% more energy by 2040 – roughly equivalent to China’s energy consumption in 2017.

 

 

80% of the world’s population live in countries where average energy consumption is less than 100 GJ per head

 

 

This assumes that countries in which energy consumption is much greater than 100 GJ/per head do not economize on their energy use. If all those countries reduced average consumption levels to the EU average in 2040 (around 120 GJ/per head), this would provide almost the entire energy required.

 

Improving energy efficiency in countries which use disproportionate amounts of energy is likely to be key to solving the dual challenge of providing ‘more energy and less carbon’.

The global energy system faces a dual challenge: the need for ‘more energy and less carbon’

Primary energy demand and carbon emissions
Primary energy demand and carbon emissions

The global energy system faces a dual challenge: the need for ‘more energy and less carbon’.

 

The ET scenario is not consistent with achieving either of these challenges:

 

  • energy demand increases by a third, but two-thirds of the world population in 2040 live in countries in which average energy consumption is still less than 100 GJ per head;
  • CO2 emissions from energy use continue to edge up, increasing by almost 10% by 2040, rather than falling substantially.

 

The ‘More energy’ scenario represents a half-way step to reducing the proportion of the world’s population living in countries where the average level of consumption is below 100 GJ/per head to one-third by 2040.

 

The ‘Rapid transition’ scenario represents a similar half-way step on carbon emissions: reducing CO2 emissions by around 45% by 2040, almost half-way to reducing entirely carbon emissions from energy use.