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Improved technologies could cut energy usage by 60 percent

October 22, 2020
By: Connor LaVelle

With the continuing development of efficient technologies, energy consumption may drop 60 percent by 2050 while continuing to provide decent living standards, according to a new study. Research by the University of Leeds, published as Providing Decent Living with Minimum Energy: A Global Scenario in Global Environmental Change, developed a roadmap for lowering worldwide energy usage. The study found that global energy usage could fall over 60 percent from today’s levels through a combination of “the most efficient technologies available and radical demand-side transformations that reduce excess consumption to sufficiency-levels.”

In the report, the Leeds researchers modeled four possible futures of global energy use: Decent Living Energy (DLE) where energy consumption trends and advancing technologies have lowered global consumption while maintaining decent living standards; Higher Demand (HD) where goals of lowering consumption have been replaced by higher energy demand; Less Advanced Technologies (LAT) where technological innovations have not been supported; and, finally, a combination of the HD and LAT scenarios.

In the Less Advanced Technology model, global energy usage exceeds that of the Decent Living Energy scenario, with the authors writing that “the sectors contributing the most to this rise above DLE levels are mobility, residential buildings and healthcare.” Modeling the combination of Higher Demand and Less Advanced Technologies scenarios increased energy usage even further, reflecting the impact that technological development can have in curbing energy consumption.

By modeling final energy usage for 119 countries, the Leeds researchers also note that many nations are currently living with an energy surplus, while those countries currently experiencing energy deficits were found to have a Gross Domestic Product per Capita of less than $6000. The researchers warn that this energy inequality can extend to technology access as well, explaining that the “unjust distributional impacts that accompany the rollout of high-tech, ecological solutions are well known. For example, hybrid cars and rooftop solar technologies are typically only accessible to wealthier citizens, who are thus the ones that benefit from any associated tax breaks and subsidies.”

While socio-political and economic inequality, along with equal access to technology, remain large hurdles towards lowering global energy consumption, the study concludes that “meeting these challenges does not, in theory, preclude extending decent living standards, universally, to a population of ~10 billion.” By establishing a commitment towards equitable global access to innovative technologies, decent living standards with lower energy consumption can become a reality by 2050.

The University of Leeds press release may be accessed here, while the whole report may be found here.

energy, technology