Home Energy system Column: Global energy, emissions and technology diffusion: Kemp

Column: Global energy, emissions and technology diffusion: Kemp


LONDON, Dec. 10 (Reuters) – Developments in global energy markets and greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades will be largely determined by the diffusion of new technologies in fast-growing Asian countries but modestly prosperous.

Energy and emissions research and forecasting still focuses far too much on North America and Western Europe, ignoring the implications of the large and growing share of energy consumption in Asia.

The problem is not new: “a large number of our fellow citizens … are watching a very vivid Western foreground, but).

Register now for FREE and unlimited access to reuters.com


Much of the writing on energy is still anchored in the world from 1945 to the end of World War II, or from 1989 to the end of the Cold War, when the global economy was dominated by North America and Western Europe.

Since then, however, the focus of economic activity, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions has shifted from the economies clustered around the North Atlantic to Asia (https: // tmsnrt.rs/3GDstod).

The countries of West, South and East Asia accounted for 49% of global energy consumption in 2019, up from 43% in 2009, 31% in 1999 and 23% in 1989, according to data from BP.

In contrast, the share of consumption in North American and Western European countries fell to only 32% in 2019, compared to 38% in 2009, 47% in 1999 and 48% in 1989 (“Statistical review of world energy, BP, 2021).

The gap between energy consumption in Asia and the North Atlantic regions is expected to widen further over the coming decades based on differential growth rates.

Between 1999 and 2019, Asia’s energy use grew at a compound annual rate of 4.4%, compared to just 0.7% per year in North Atlantic economies (https: // tmsnrt. rs / 31MPnKX).

Because of these differences in weights and growth rates, the future of the global energy system and emissions will be primarily determined by what happens in Asia and not the North Atlantic region.


The economies of the North Atlantic can play a role in political leadership and technological development, but these policies and technologies must ultimately be diffused throughout Asia.

The history of the Industrial Revolution and modern economic growth shows that what matters globally is when and how quickly technology is diffused from advanced regions and early adopters to the rest of the world.

The British economy had industrialized considerably by the 1830s and 1840s, based in part on cheap energy in the form of abundant and easily accessible coal reserves (“The British Industrial Revolution in a Global Perspective”, Allen, 2009) .

But the major transformation of the world economy began later in the 1860s and 1870s, when these technologies reached the rest of Western Europe and North America (“Power and Abundance,” Findlay and O’Rourke, 2009).

In the coming decades, changing the global composition of energy consumption and reducing the arc of emissions will depend on the adoption of pioneering technologies in the North Atlantic in Asia, as well as development by the Asia of its own technological solutions.

Technologies that work in the context of relatively prosperous economies around the North Atlantic will need to be made affordable for the more modestly prosperous economies in Asia.

Technologies that work on the large-scale energy systems of the North Atlantic countries will need to be scaled up to work in the much larger energy systems of Asia.

Technologies that work in areas rich in oil and gas will need to be implemented in areas where they are scarce and where coal is the primary source of indigenous energy and a foundation for energy security.

And technologies that are seen as a source of comparative economic and commercial advantages must eventually be transferred to competitors for wider deployment.

None of these challenges will be easy to solve. But the transformation of the future energy system and the trajectory of emissions largely depends on their evolution.

Associated columns:

– Climate finance for developing countries is insufficient (Reuters, September 17) read more

– The IEA’s roadmap shows a difficult journey to net zero (Reuters, June 30) read more

– CO2 emission limits and economic development (Reuters, April 16) more

– Asia and the great reconvergence (Reuters, April 13) read more

Register now for FREE and unlimited access to reuters.com


Editing by Kirsten Donovan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source link