The relation between energy consumption and the economic activity has been the subjects of innumerable studies. Its understanding remains a challenge, particularly important to guide energy transition scenarios. I use recently established historical series spanning 200 years of primary energy consumption (PEC) and gross domestic product (GDP) to establish a simple model of the global economy. This modelling confirms energy consumption as a key parameter of economic development. It also reveals the continuous and accelerating improvement of the energy efficiency of the economy, trend which can also be parametrized by PEC. The model can be used to analyze published transition scenarios, and infer their coherence with historical trends. It is also used in a related study of the rebound effect, which must be understood to avoid the loss of efficiency gains into unwanted induced consumption.
Hervé Bercegol is a physicist working at DRF/SPEC. He is interested in interdisciplinary studies mixing natural science and technology with social science and humanities in the context of the climate-energy challenge.