Do we consume more energy per capita, or less?
My list

Author | Marcos Martinez

The total among of energy consumed worldwide is increasing with the development of civilisation, which is exponential. This aspect is what led to the Kardashev scale, which measured technological advancement based on how a civilisation used energy and it means that each year we need more resources (fossil fuels, renewables or nuclear power) to supply us.

Global average per capita energy consumption has been consistently increasing each year and although some countries such as Germany or the United States may seem to be reducing energy consumption per capita, this has been increasing since records began. Why?

Practically linear per capita energy consumption

If we look at the world bank graph, expressed in kWh per capita since 1971, we can see that per capita consumption has been increasing linearly. If an inhabitant in 1971 consumed 1200 kWh/year, both he and his children would have consumed 2386 kWh/year by 2000.

A growing population, exponential consumption?

The result of this growing consumption, combined with an equally growing population (7,594 million people in 2018), has led to the total global energy consumption following an exponential curve. However, per capita consumption was not the same everywhere in the world.

This is illustrated in the interactive graph below, where we can see how some regions have reduced part of their per capita consumption in recent decades (rich countries), while others have increased rapidly, such as China. Is this the case?

Are developed cities really more efficient?

In general terms we could say that the carbon footprint of an inhabitant of a city in a developed country is considerably lower than that of one in a city in a developing country, as illustrated by the wider study on the matter. Although we shall put it into context below.

In this regard, European and Latin cities are the ones that have the lowest per capita energy consumption, followed by cities in the United States, the cities of the Middle East and Asian cities. This is due to the compact structure of the cities, as well as various decarbonisation, climate and public mobility policies.

A recent report placed countries such as Germany and Spain at the top of the decarbonisation of the economy, converting the energy mix to low carbon power generation sources. But these measures do not take into account the external factors of these countries.

If we take cities such as Hong Kong (China) or New Delhi (India) as an example, and we look at their pollution indexes and per capita consumption, we could be led to unfairly judge their inhabitants as irresponsible in energy terms. It needs to be put into context.

The western relocation of industry in around 1990 also entailed “transferring” consumption in production. We can clearly see how as soon as countries such as the United States started to reduce their per capita consumption, China increased its own, becoming the “world factory”.

Reducing per capita consumption or the population?

Apart from decarbonisation, which is very present in Europe, South America and some North American states, there is also the problem of how to restrict energy consumption when this energy, even renewable energy, is having an increasingly significant environmental impact.

We have before us a dilemma: either we change our growing consumption habits to limit it and reduce it as the global population grows; or accelerate the population decrease that we are seeing in developing countries, so the total consumption does not exceed a specific threshold.

Images | Science in HD, M. Martínez

Related content
The countries predicted to lose the most with climate change
The countries predicted to lose the most with climate change
Young children are intuitive urban planners — we would all benefit from living in their ‘care-full’ cities
Young children are intuitive urban planners — we would all benefit from living in their ‘care-full’ cities
A city of empty houses: How work from home, job losses hit Bengaluru's residential rentals
A city of empty houses: How work from home, job losses hit Bengaluru's residential rentals
Energy needed a digital revolution – and we are it
Energy needed a digital revolution – and we are it
How the power of IoT makes smart cities a reality
How the power of IoT makes smart cities a reality
Heatwaves and urban heat islands: what are cities to do?
Heatwaves and urban heat islands: what are cities to do?
Smart Forest City Cancun: a futuristic orchard in the middle of the Riviera Maya
Smart Forest City Cancun: a futuristic orchard in the middle of the Riviera Maya
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Do we consume more energy per capita, or less?
Do we consume more energy per capita, or less?
Solar cities: an opportunity not to be missed
Solar cities: an opportunity not to be missed
Success story: Singapore’s transformation into a garden city
Success story: Singapore’s transformation into a garden city
Amsterdam launches a modular urban lighting system
Amsterdam launches a modular urban lighting system
Copenhagen’s green future is built on the rooftops
Copenhagen’s green future is built on the rooftops
How does a city face the pandemic - Infographic
How does a city face the pandemic - Infographic
Geothermal energy: a simple solution for making urban heat more sustainable
Geothermal energy: a simple solution for making urban heat more sustainable
Climathon, cities get together to tackle the climate emergency
Climathon, cities get together to tackle the climate emergency
Smart Cube: Cube4Services
Smart Cube: Cube4Services
BSI Cleaning: Innovative cleaning and disinfection solutions
BSI Cleaning: Innovative cleaning and disinfection solutions
Wave by AGC: WAVEATTOCH, transparent glass antenna for outdoor network densification
Wave by AGC: WAVEATTOCH, transparent glass antenna for outdoor network densification
Cloudics: Solutions for fueling stations that can be operated from the cloud-based web manager, by Astro Baltics
Cloudics: Solutions for fueling stations that can be operated from the cloud-based web manager, by Astro Baltics
BuildWind: Pedestrian wind comfort and safety assessment
BuildWind: Pedestrian wind comfort and safety assessment
Lumency: Smart Building and Environmental Monitoring
Lumency: Smart Building and Environmental Monitoring
Green deal solutions Demo day
Green deal solutions Demo day
5G Smart Environmental Protection: Water at its best
5G Smart Environmental Protection: Water at its best
Unicard: Multimodal transport made easy
Unicard: Multimodal transport made easy
Passenger: Enabling transport innovation
Passenger: Enabling transport innovation
Siemens eMobility: Energizing the electromobile world
Siemens eMobility: Energizing the electromobile world
Clever Bins: Enhancing recycling management
Clever Bins: Enhancing recycling management
Cyclomedia: Streets speak out smart
Cyclomedia: Streets speak out smart
DEFLEXIO: Anticipating the good, the bad and the ugly
DEFLEXIO: Anticipating the good, the bad and the ugly
Success story: Smart litter bins in Seoul
Success story: Smart litter bins in Seoul
The electricity challenge: Will we be able to generate all the energy we need?
The electricity challenge: Will we be able to generate all the energy we need?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Urban agriculture: how to go from being a hobby to feeding cities
Urban agriculture: how to go from being a hobby to feeding cities
Urban forests: these cities are naturalising their environment
Urban forests: these cities are naturalising their environment
Urban metabolism, when cities are integrated into the natural environment
Urban metabolism, when cities are integrated into the natural environment
What is environmental racism and how can we prevent it in cities?
What is environmental racism and how can we prevent it in cities?
Tokyo is facing the challenge of organising the most sustainable Olympic Games
Tokyo is facing the challenge of organising the most sustainable Olympic Games
Welcome to the post-diesel era. And now what?
Welcome to the post-diesel era. And now what?
The Chinese dilemma of waste-to-energy plants
The Chinese dilemma of waste-to-energy plants
The Business Case for Climate Neutral Cities – the Mission of our time
The Business Case for Climate Neutral Cities – the Mission of our time
Smart Waste, a key pillar for sustainable Open Cities
Smart Waste, a key pillar for sustainable Open Cities
Smart Piers Cities
Smart Piers Cities
Cities deserve a stakeholder journey to support and ensure their decarbonization
Cities deserve a stakeholder journey to support and ensure their decarbonization
Enable connectivity for Smart and Sustainable Buildings
Enable connectivity for Smart and Sustainable Buildings
Portugal Smart Nation: the tale of how a nation can become global
Portugal Smart Nation: the tale of how a nation can become global
CITYSYNERGY: A holistic view into the heart of the city
CITYSYNERGY: A holistic view into the heart of the city
Octar Technologies: Safe disinfection for a better life
Octar Technologies: Safe disinfection for a better life
How companies and innovators can work together to build smart and sustainable cities
How companies and innovators can work together to build smart and sustainable cities
A Just Transition with Climate and Social Ambition
A Just Transition with Climate and Social Ambition
Recommended profiles for you
Nieves Dasencich
Nieves Dasencich
Universidad nacional de rosario
Secretary
Myungjae Kang
Myungjae Kang
KOTRA
Director
UR
Urmila Rajadhyaksha
Urmila Rajadhyaksha
Head of the Department
OP
Oscar Pereira
Atelier alcaparra
Manager
Beatriz Alonzo
Beatriz Alonzo
Freelance
Institutional strategy and comunication consultant for cultural organizations
OS
Organizer Start.cat
Start.cat
Boss
ER
Esther Rodríguez Medina
Gesplsn
Directive
Zeeshan Khan
Zeeshan Khan
Beyond Smart Group
CEO
AG
ANTONI GARÍ
Professional independent
Advisor
IM
Ivan Mayordomo
Starke Energy
CTO
MM
María Alejandra Meza
UIS
Student
ab
albert bargues grau
ajuntament sitges
arquitecto municipal ,gestion de proyectos .
Victor Gomez-Cespedes
Victor Gomez-Cespedes
Recilogic
President and CEO
BG
Bibiana Gutierrez
Enel X
Marketing
ML
Matheus Lage
CML Energy
CEO
TC
Teodora Capelle
Architecte
Senior Project Leader
Radim Ševčík
Radim Ševčík
Smart City Innovations Institut
CEO, Partner
Nina Aquino
Nina Aquino
Biopipe Global Corp.
Chief Marketing Officer
Zablon Otieno Ogolla
Zablon Otieno Ogolla
Plogging Kenya
CEO and Founder
AW
Abraham Waqairoba
USP
Student

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$