Declining Quantities Of Consumers Vs. Increasing Energy Consumption?!?

Authored by Chris Hamilton via Econimica blog,

Summary

  • I compare the UN World Population Prospects 2019 report (split by the World Bank Gross National Income data) vs. the EIA International Energy Outlook 2017.

  • I show the observed data sets from 1980 through 2018 and projected data sets from 2019 through 2050.

  • Imminent declines in the wealthier nations consumer populations are sure to mean significantly larger decelerations in Energy Consumption than presently forecast.

  • The ongoing but decelerating Poorer Nations population growth will not make up the difference.

  • A large, and likely non-linear, deceleration in global energy consumption appears likely.

Food for thought.  Utilizing data sets, rather than anecdotal evidence, can be helpful when attempting to understand the present and future realities we should anticipate.

Today, I compare the 2019 UN Population Prospects report vs. the EIA (US Energy Information Administration) International Energy Outlook 2017. 

  1. I split the world's 0-65 year-olds into roughly even populations by those nations with $4k (thousand) and above per capita purchasing power (solid blue line below) vs. those nations with per capita purchasing power below $4k (solid red line below).

  2. I compare total energy consumption, split by the same wealthier nations (dashed blue line) versus poorer nations (dashed red line).

  3. The "above $4k" nations have an average purchasing power of over $16k per capita income while those nations "below $4k" average $1.6k.  This is about a 10 fold discrepancy in purchasing and consuming power of the wealthier vs. the poorer citizens of the world for what are essentially globally consistently priced commodities and exports. 

  4. The wealthier nations consume just over 88% of the worlds energy and the poor nations the remaining 12%.

  5. The data from 1980 through 2018 are actual observations while the data from 2019 through 2050 are projections.

In order to see better understand what is taking place, the chart below shows population change of the two groups on an annual change basis.  As the chart details, population change of the wealthier nations 0-65yr/old population (blue columns) has decelerated from +38 million annually in 1988 to just +5 million annually in 2019, and is set to cease growing as of 2023.  By 2035, this wealthier population is projected to be declining by about -15 million annually (this is assuming ongoing high rates of immigration, absent this, the declines will be larger).  Meanwhile, 0-65 year-old population growth among the poorer nations gently accelerated from '88 through '18 (+47 million to +53 million annually) but growth is now projected to continue a consistent deceleration to +35 million by 2050.  Fascinatingly, these changes in annual population growth are not expected to have significant impact on the trend growth of energy consumption (wealthier nations energy consumption=blue dashed line vs. poorer nations energy consumption=red dashed line).

Finally, detailing annual change in population and annual change in energy consumption.  As above, the annual population change of wealthier nations, (blue columns) versus poorer nations (red columns) but detailing the annual change in energy consumption of wealthier nations (blue line) versus annual change in energy consumption of poorer nations (red line).

Given the high volatility of the changing energy consumption vs. the relatively smooth population changes in the chart above, the last two charts average out the differing wealthier and poorer nations annual change in population and like annual change in energy consumption from 1980 through 2018 and 2019 through 2050.

First, Wealthier Nations...

From 1980 through 2018, wealthier nations saw an average annual increase of 24 million 0-65 year-olds versus an annual energy consumption increase of 6.9 quadrillion BTU's.

From 2019 through 2050, wealthier nations are projected to see an average annual decline of -8 million 0-65 year-olds versus an annual increase in energy consumption by 4.8 quadrillion BTU.

And Poorer Nations...

From 1980 through 2018, poorer nations saw an average increase of 49 million 0-65 year-olds annually versus an annual energy consumption increase of 1.4 quadrillion BTU's.

From 2019 through 2050, poorer nations are projected to see an average annual increase of 46 million 0-65 year-olds versus an annual increase of energy consumption of 1.9 quadrillion BTU's.

From 2019 through 2050, the consumer of 88% of earths energy, the wealthier nations, are expected to increase their total energy consumption by 154 quadrillion BTU's (+29%) versus a 62 quadrillion BTU increase among the poor nations (+87%).  This is based on an assumption of a 39% wealthy energy consumption increase on a per capita basis...versus a 33% increase on a per capita basis among the poor nations of the world.

The 2019 through 2050 wealthy energy consumption is a very strange projection that wealthier nations will significantly increase their total energy consumption against shrinking workforces, decelerating need for more infrastructure, more factories, more supply chains, etc..  Further, this is strange given continued innovation and conservation efforts in the creation and utilization of energy from all sources.

My two cents...

...is the UN medium variant population data is overstating population growth (and understating population declines among the wealthy nations) and that the EIA International Energy Outlook is somewhere from mildly to wildly overstating energy consumption growth.  With a soon to be shrinking working age consumer base among the wealthier nations who do nearly 90% of the global consuming, the already existing oversupply of capacity will only grow larger.  This lack of demand growth will block the poorer nations from developing and producing further supply.  This lack of global demand will mean little to no export based growth among the poorer nations (no repeat of the "Asian tigers" or anticipated "S-curves" for India or Africa).  As these two data sets are trued up to reality (and one another), the implications for the present and future will be a very different world than is currently being projected.