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GCSE Geography | Global Demand for Energy (Resource Management - Energy 1)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 25 May 2024

Global energy use:

  • Just over half of all energy around the globe is used for industry - manufacturing and food production
  • Around a quarter of global energy is used for transportation - air travel has seen huge growth in recent decades, but as countries have developed so has car use
  • Around 14% is used domestically - this in homes and includes heating, lighting and cooling systems, as well as running electrical appliances
  • About 8% is usually commercially - in retail, offices and hospitality

Energy surplus - where the supply of energy available in an area exceeds the demand

Energy deficit - where the demand for energy exceeds the energy that is available in an area

Energy insecurity - where supplies of energy sources are unreliable, e.g. they may be interrupted, or prices may fluctuate, with the potential for black-outs

Black-outs - power cuts, resulting from a shortfall in energy production

The global pattern

Energy supply and consumption are unequal across the globe as you can see from the Our World in Data map below.

Qatar has the highest energy use per capita, with an average of 194,222 kilowatt-hours per year - and 100% of energy in the country is generated through burning fossil fuels. Half of the top ten energy consuming countries are from the Middle East, with the United Arab Emirates (148,577 kWh), Kuwait (103,883), Saudi Arabia (87,707) and Oman (90,751) all joining Qatar. In the UK we use 30,098 kWh per person, per year.

In the Middle East huge amounts of energy are used to cool homes and businesses, and countries there source their energy almost exclusively from fossil fuels due to the fact they are rich in oil resources. And because they have so many energy resources, energy prices are much lower so therefore they can afford to use more energy. Oil is the greatest source of energy supplied globally, accounting for about 30% of all energy produced, this is down from 50% in the early 1970s.

Also in the top ten are Iceland, Canada and Norway - there huge amounts of energy are used to heat homes because of the cold weather. However, they are less reliant on fossil fuels...

  • Iceland (165,871) - 70% of energy is from hydroelectric power, and almost 30% is from geothermal energy
  • Canada (102,160) - 61% of energy is from hydroelectric power, 13% from nuclear and 10.5% from natural gas
  • Norway (96,926) - 88% is from hydropower, with another 10% from wind

The countries with the lowest energy consumption worldwide are found in Africa - Somalia (217 kWh), Burundi (294 kWh) and Central African Republic (286 kWh). The top ten lowest consuming countries are all found in sub-Saharan Africa with consumption at 500 kWh or lower. One of the main reasons energy consumption in these countries is low is because they are suffering from energy insecurity. It is also linked to the low level of development, meaning that there isn't a need for a huge amount of energy, although this is a vicious circle as the lack of energy security hinders development.

Source: Our World in Data

Why has the global demand for energy increased?

Population growth

The first and main reason is global population growth - in 1950 the world's population was estimated to be around 2.5 billion people, increasing to around 6 billion by 1998, and 7 billion in 2010. On 15th November 2022 the global population hit 8 billion, which was considered a huge milestone in human development - taking just 12 years to increase by 1 billion people. The global population is predicted to hit 9 billion in 2037 - taking 15 years to increase by another billion, which does show that overall population growth is starting to slow down.

A growing population leads to higher energy consumption because more people means an increase in demand for energy - more people using vehicles, more people using technology such as computers, mobile phones and consoles, and more people needing heat and light in their homes. There will also need to be construction of more homes, buildings that house services, infrastructure, etc. - all which take energy to build.

However, we need to remember that the countries with the highest level of population growth are those countries that are already struggling with resources, and are already suffering food, water and energy insecurity, so therefore population growth is likely to lead to more people experiencing an unreliable supply - for example, blackouts are a frequent occurrence across LICs and NEEs. Countries with the lowest Gross National Income (GNI) per capita also tend to have the highest fertility rates. This means that global population growth is mainly concentrated in the poorest countries - usually in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, population growth across the whole of Africa is 2.5% per year, compared to 0.1% in Europe.

Economic development

The second reason is economic development. As countries start to develop economically the population will have more money to spend on technology and electric appliances for their homes which require a source of power, in addition car ownership will increase so energy will be needed here too. Economic development will also see investment into manufacturing industries that use huge amounts of energy in production, and a shift from subsistence agriculture to commercial farming, which uses a significant amount of energy to operate machinery, power large greenhouses, refrigerate stock and for transportation. As wealth increases, so does the demand for energy, and HICs have been consuming huge amounts of energy for these reasons for many decades.

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