Energy demand can be reduced in several ways. New technology can provide the same services with lower energy inputs than were previously required (e.g., higher-mileage automobiles, light-emitting diodes). Social preferences and industrial needs can change so that less energy is required to perform the mix of desired functions (e.g., reduced meat and greater vegetable content in diets, reduced use of energy-intensive transport and travel). While the population of the world as a whole will continue to grow in the coming decades, populations in some parts of the world have stabilized or even begun to shrink. Reduced rates of population growth result in fewer persons who must be served with a given level of energy, although the essential need for economic development in much of the world will continue to result in growing energy demand, even if the energy efficiency of these societies can be significantly increased.
There is considerable potential for progress in demand reduction. While new technology is often a necessary ingredient, regulation, pricing, tax policy, social norms, and other factors can be equally or more important.
Efficiency improvements can reduce energy demand by ~1 percent per year through this century (Lightfoot and Green 2002). Thus, efficiency improvements could reduce energy demand by some few tens of percent on the timescale of several decades and could more than halve energy demand by century's end. A more extensive discussion of these options can be found in Metz et al. (2001).
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