Global fundamentals

Energy is essential for human progress. Economic expansion and improving access to energy enable longer, more productive lives for the growing global population.

Report Aug. 28, 2023

What’s the difference between a projection and a scenario?
A projection like the Outlook starts with current factors, such as policy and commercially available technology, and estimates how they might change over time. In contrast, many scenarios start with a hypothetical outcome and work backward to identify the factors that need to occur to achieve that outcome. 

A deep understanding of long-term market fundamentals underpins ExxonMobil’s business planning.

These fundamentals include energy supply and demand trends; the scale and variety of energy needs worldwide; capability, practicality and affordability of alternatives including lower-emission solutions; greenhouse gas emission-reduction technologies; and supportive government policies. The Outlook considers these fundamentals to form the basis for long-term business planning, investment decisions, and research programs. 

The Outlook reflects our view of global energy and product demand and supply through 2050. It is based on current and expected trends in technology, government policies, consumer preferences, geopolitics, and economic development.

How do Scenarios inform?

ExxonMobil considers a range of scenarios – including those we view as remote – to help inform strategic thinking. No single pathway can be reasonably predicted, given the wide range of uncertainties. Key unknowns include yet-to-be-developed government policies and advances in technology that may influence the cost, pace, and potential availability of certain pathways. Scenarios that employ a full complement of technology options are likely to provide the most economically efficient pathways. What also remains uncertain is how quickly and to what extent businesses and consumers will be willing to pay for deeper carbon reductions in the products and services they use, thereby creating a market that incentivizes an accelerated path to net zero.

Unlike the company’s Outlook, which is a projection, many scenarios, such as International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions (IEA NZE) by 2050, work backward from a hypothetical outcome to identify the factors needed to achieve that outcome. It is important to note that the IEA acknowledges that society is not on a net-zero pathway, and that the NZE scenario assumes unprecedented energy efficiency gains, innovation and technology transfer, lower-emissions investments, and globally coordinated greenhouse-gas reduction policy by governments.


Billion people

Image Population

Energy per capita

Million Btu

Image Energy per capita

Energy demand growth 2021-2050

Primary energy – Quadrillion Btu

Image Energy demand growth 2021-2050
  • Global population grows to 9.7 billion in 2050 from 7.8 billion today.
  • 65% of this growth is in Africa and the Middle East, over 25% in Asia Pacific, and only around 3%  in OECD countries.
  • Efficiency gains reduce energy use per capita in the developed world whereas the developing world increases its energy per capita in pursuit of higher living standards.
  • Global demand is expected to rise 15% by 2050 as developing nations add five times what is reduced by developed countries.

World GDP more than doubles

Trillions of 2015$

Image World GDP more than doubles

GDP growth 2021-2050

Trillions of 2015$
Image GDP growth 2021-2050
1 CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate
  • Economic expansion is a key driver of energy demand.  The world economy contracted in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, then recovered in 2021 to the pre-COVID level. It is now facing significant uncertainties because of high inflation and rising global tension.
  • World GDP is projected to more than double from 2021 to 2050, with developing nations growing at more than twice the rate of developed countries.
  • By 2050, developing countries will account for almost 55% of global GDP, up from about 40% today. China’s growth from 2021 to 2050 is similar to the growth of the entire developed world.
  • The widespread economic expansion among developing nations suggests continued robust energy demand in these economies.

Purchasing power per person

Thousands of purchasing power parity (PPP) of 2017$
Image Purchasing power per person
  • Access to energy enables economic progress and improves quality of life. As income grows, it enables families to own homes, purchase labor-saving appliances, pursue education, travel, and obtain needed medical treatment.
  • As GDP grows faster than population around the globe, average personal incomes rise everywhere, with significant country and regional variations.
  • By 2050, China GDP per capita is expected to more than triple to reach about 75% of all developed nations at that time.
  • India's per capita GDP is likely to grow even faster than China’s. It will remain below the global average by 2050.
  • Africa per capita GDP is expected to add about 45%. Yet in 2050, it is still at around 10% of the average of developed countries.

Global middle class nearly doubles

Billion people
Image Global middle class nearly doubles

Source: Brookings Institution

  • Even though the average income in developing countries remains lower, there is already a burgeoning middle class that can afford more than the basic necessities of food and shelter. 
  • Despite the recent impact from COVID, the Brookings Institution foresees continued rapid growth of the global middle class, with billions more people rising out of poverty by 2030.
  • Asia Pacific represents the largest growth, with India and China each expected to have more than 1 billion middle-class citizens by 2030.
  • The expanding middle class means billions of people will aim to improve their living conditions. Access to energy is a critical enabler for these aspirations.

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