Has there been any global calculation of average increase in consumption of energy per increase of wealth per person?

Has there been any such calculations/analyses. And could you perhaps tell us something more about them please.

  • 1
    Could your question be restated, "How is per capita energy consumption related to increasing per capita wealth?". This would be a bit clearer. Also, are you concerned more with wealth, or income?
    – LShaver
    Mar 27 '17 at 3:20
  • @LShaver Thanks for the interesting remarks. I followed your advice in renaming the title. I feel like I'm equally interested in both, but let's perhaps stick to wealth for now, in the wordings ... since stackexchange unfortunately loves to put questions on hold or close them if too much information is in them ...
    – O0123
    Mar 27 '17 at 4:28
  • I don't know about wealth, but there is quite a bit of information about the relationship with income (at least for individual countries). For this you can look into energy intensity. There are also a number of reports that compare energy consumption with the Human Development Index, for example this one or this one
    – THelper
    Mar 27 '17 at 7:28

Gerrit's answer answers from the perspective of time, and the entire world. I am going to answer by breaking down by country in the present, therefore we can see, at this current snapshot in time, the relationship between the richer and poorer.


I use energy consumption in GJ per capita per annum for 2013 from here.

I use IMF 2015 Per Capita GDP (at Purchasing Power Parity) from here.

I use the World Bank 2015 Per Capita GDP (at exchange rate) from here.

I used only the countries that data in all three charts. This does filter out a lot of the poorest countries in the world, especially the small ones. These countries are not present on the energy consumption chart, which could potentially skew the results. However, there are still plenty of poor countries left, and I think that makes for a valid sample.


This is the PPP graph. Linear fit is in blue, and quadratic fit is in red.

enter image description here

And this is the nominal graph:

enter image description here


There are some significant outliers, places like Qatar, Luxembourg, Trinidad and Iceland with very high income or energy use (or both: Qatar is highest in both categories). These per capita statistics are distorted by low populations. Lets remove countries with less than 5 million people and see what is left.

PPP graph:

enter image description here

Nom graph:

enter image description here

We're getting conflicting slopes, but in neither case are we very far from a linear relationship. Doing a little deeper digging with the data, there were two groups of outliers that were removed from the first set to the second set. The Gulf oil states and Scandanavian states were all removed for having small population (except Saudi Arabia). These countries generally had all the highest energy usage.


As I mentioned, energy usage would probably be more accurately modeled by two additional boolean variables beyond GDP: 'is this a petrostate' and 'is part of this country above the Arctic circle.' But as a fist pass analysis, I'd say that a linear relationship between GDP and energy usage is pretty well supported by the data.


According to research by physicist Timothy Garrett, who has used physical laws to model the economy, the ratio of power to wealth is not changing:

ratio power to wealth
Source: T. Garrett, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

T. Garrett, a physicist, has authored several papers on the topic. See his list of peer-reviewed publications on this topic. At least one of them has a public peer review; as you can see, his study triggers a lot of discussion, perhaps because he is not formally trained as an economist. If you have some time his articles and the responses make an interesting read.

Note that he is not particularly optimistic:

If civilization does not collapse quickly this century, then CO2 levels will likely end up exceeding 1000 ppmv; but, if CO2 levels rise by this much, then the risk is that civilization will gradually tend towards collapse.

  • 1
    At first blush, this sounds great - especially as someone living in the US, which is the highest per capita energy user in the world, and one of the wealthiest countries. But averages hide the massive disparities between rich and poor countries (and even within rich countries) - both in economic and energy terms. When I've got some time, I'll look into different perspectives and add an answer from another angle.
    – LShaver
    Mar 27 '17 at 15:56
  • @LShaver It doesn't do justice to Garretts work to reduce it to a single image, of course! I believe your "buts" are addressed in some of his papers. But the amount of content I can put in an answer is limited…
    – gerrit
    Mar 27 '17 at 15:57
  • @gerrit I'm looking indeed for numbers on a global scale, if available, but I had to perhaps communicate better that I am looking more for an intra-individual comparison, so to say, (with the factor of comparison being a disparity in wealth between those individuals), and how this disparity is correlated with energy consumption. Currently, your answer shows no information at all about the economic disparity. I understand it's really because my question was asked wrongly or too ambiguous. My apologies. Thanks for your interesting answer!
    – O0123
    Mar 30 '17 at 3:38
  • I read the first link, but didn't do a deeper dive. However, I'm interested in how Garrett is defining 'wealth.' In the first link, he says there is 2352 trillion dollars of collective global wealth. I don't understand how you can get to that number. World GDP is about $75 trillion, and a great deal of that is services or consumpables. How have we accumulated quadrillions of dollars of 'wealth'?
    – kingledion
    Mar 31 '17 at 19:23
  • @kingledion I believe he has integrated the GDP over time but I really don't know the details and I could be totally wrong.
    – gerrit
    Mar 31 '17 at 19:30

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