Medium-Term Perspectives

Electricity consumption is expected to grow by more than 70% in the next 20 years (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012; UN/DESA 2014), the result of world population growth, rising living standards in new economies, and increased urbanization. Most available forecasts predict a similar evolution. ExxonMobil (2016) expects an increase of around 80%, Shell (2016) between 84 (“Mountains” scenario) and

Evolution of electricity consumption per region (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012; UN/DESA 2014)

Fig. 3.38 Evolution of electricity consumption per region (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012; UN/DESA 2014)

Evolution of electricity consumption per source (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012; UN/DESA 2014)

Fig. 3.39 Evolution of electricity consumption per source (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012; UN/DESA 2014)

116% (“Oceans” scenario), and Greenpeace (2015) an increase between 70 (“Reference” scenario) and 81% (“Advanced Energy [R]evolution scenario). The growth of electricity consumption will be spectacular in the coming decades. The production of electricity is expected to increase in tandem with its consumption. Output should be on the uptrend in new economies, where demand is rising fast, mainly in Asia, particularly China. China is expected to account for 40% of production growth worldwide, and the country would in 2035 become the top electricity producer in the world with a 28% slice of global electricity production, ahead of the United States (Fig. 3.38).

Such growth across the globe will require all means available. While the combined share of fossil fuels is expected to decrease in percentage terms (from 67% today to 57% in 2035), they will keep growing in absolute value. Renewable energy will pick up a bigger share, and nuclear energy will remain stable at around 13% of total global electricity production (Fig. 3.39).

Evolution of electricity consumption per individual (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012; UN/DESA 2014)

Fig. 3.40 Evolution of electricity consumption per individual (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012; UN/DESA 2014)

The electricity consumption intensity will also vary across the world. China would reach Europe levels of around 0.5 toe/year/individual, which, considering China’s population size, is the main factor of electricity production growth in the world. The United States should remain the most electricity-intensive country in the world with around 0.9 toe/year/individual, three times the world average. This evolution is expected to be more moderate in other regions of the world, in particular Africa, India and the rest of Asia (Fig. 3.40).

The spectacular growth of electricity production in the mid term can then be explained by two factors that combine together. On one hand, world population growth drives mechanically an increase in electricity production. The world population will increase by around 20% by 2035 and electricity production will increase by the same factor. On top of that, urbanization of new economies and the improvement of living standards, along with the development of the middle class in those economies, will lead to a massive increase in electricity consumption intensity. The electricity consumption per individual will rise from 0.21 toe/year/ individual to 0.31 toe/year/individual in 2035. In absolute value terms, this means that the improvement of the living conditions accounts for 70% of electricity demand growth. This is particularly true in China, where just the improvement of living conditions should account for almost 40% of the total electricity growth in the world, more than the growth related to the increase in world population (Fig. 3.41)!

More than the growth of the world population, this is the improvement of the living standards in new economies, thru the development of an emerging middle class, which shall lead to a spectacular increase of the electricity demand. This should continue during the twenty-first century, as other economies achieve their economic transition and their complete integration in the global economy.

Understand the increase of electricity consumption

Fig. 3.41 Understand the increase of electricity consumption

 
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