2.3 Demographic Trends and Energy Demand Growth

Energy use is unavoidably necessary in fueling industrialized economic systems and the production of a near limitless range of goods and services to meet diverse consumer preferences. Energy consumption profiles among countries, in turn, are affected by a broad range of factors pertaining to population size, weather patterns, economic structure, scale of industrial development, national wealth, personal lifestyles, and the relative urbanization of populations.

Developing countries in Asia and throughout the world seek economic growth to increase personal and household incomes and to gain social access to modern amenities related to health, mobility, recreation, and education. This sought-after growth curve in economic expansion, fueled by an accompanying enlargement of energy supply systems and delivery infrastructure, has already occurred over the last 150 years in the currently industrialized countries. Already, many emerging economies in Asia have achieved impressive gains in capturing an increasing share of global manufacturing capacity and foreign direct investment. Their rapid economic expansion is coinciding with new consumer purchasing power for the rising middle class. To keep pace with this growth and the economic aspirations of their populations, developing countries often share a policy perspective that strongly values expansion in new energy supply as a means to achieve national goals.

Such perspectives, however, can benefit from a larger role for EE within national energy policy and planning, for reasons that speak to regional security and social equity. More specifically, despite the developmental achievements to date of many emerging economies, significant populations in various parts of the world continue to lack access to modern energy service. Table 2 shows the relative intransigence of the challenge, comparing global population without access to electricity service in 2008—or approximately 1.5 billion people—with projections for 2030. As the regional figures suggest, improvements will be made in many parts of the world over the next 2 decades. Yet without extra efforts to prioritize equitable access to electricity service, some 1.3 billion people may continue to be left behind (World Energy Outlook 2009).

Table 2 World Population Without Access to Electricity in 2008 with Projections to 2030 (million population)

PRC = People's Republic of China.

Source: Data reported in World Energy Outlook 2009 © OECD/IEA 2009,

figure 2.10, p. 131.

The above dynamics, in renewing attention to the need for expanded energy access, do not negate the importance of EE at global and regional scales. To the contrary, an emphasis on low-cost EE will become even more critical to diffuse pressure on existing electricity systems and to defer or avoid the need for capacity expansion of power plants and T&D. With robust EE deployment, a larger number of people can receive energy service from the same amount of existing fuels, resources, and infrastructure. Financial and technical resources, in turn, can be deployed to expand access to critically underserved low-income populations or remote communities. At the same time, a greater share of expenditures on energy can be retained within national borders, as the need for energy imports is reduced. Such savings can free up domestic expenditures for alternative investments in education, health care, public transit, and other amenities that are vital to the long-term prosperity and well-being of populations everywhere, to include developing Asia.