Impacts of Urbanization on Urban Structures and Energy Demand


Project duration: 10/2009 - 3/2010

  Impacts of urbanization on urban structures and energy demand (Source: Madlener and Sunak, 2011) Impacts of urbanization on urban structures and energy demand (Source: Madlener and Sunak, 2011)

In this study we investigate the impacts of urbanization on urban structures and energy demand in developing and developed countries. We focus particularly on energy-related mechanisms and processes associated with urbanization and on the policy implications of these as they relate to developing and developed countries.

Since 2007, for the first time in human history, more than half of the world’s population has lived in cities. The urbanization process is a key phenomenon of economic development, and leads to a significant concentration of human resources, economic activities, and resource consumption in cities. Although covering only about two percent of the earth’s surface, cities are responsible for about 75 percent of the world’s consumption of resources. This trend will intensify over the next decades as a consequence of high urbanization rates in Africa and, even more importantly, in Asia.

In order to estimate the impact of urbanization on energy demand, we have to identify the different processes and mechanisms of urbanization that substantially affect urban structures and human behavior. Taking a closer look at city-related production, mobility and transport, infrastructure and urban density, as well as private households, we find that various mechanisms of urbanization within these sectors lead to a substantial increase in urban energy demand and to a change in the fuel mix. The relevance of these mechanisms differs considerably between developed and developing countries as well as within the group of developing countries.

In view of the fact that the urban population will double within the next 40 years in most Asian and African developing countries, cities and especially newly emerging megacities will play a key role in the development and distribution of global energy demand. Given an urbanization elasticity of energy per $ of GDP of about 0.47 (Jones, 1991), which implies that a one percent increase of the urbanization rate leads to a 0.47 percent increase in energy consumption, energy demand as a consequence of increasing urbanization is expected to rise by about 10.5 percent in Africa and 11.1 percent in Asia within the next 40 years. Hence, urban energy planning and urbanization management will become future challenges of paramount importance in order to create the right framework conditions for a sustainable energy future.

Project publications

Madlener R., Sunak Y. (2011). Impacts of Urbanization on Urban Structures and Energy Demand: What Can We Learn for Urban Energy Planning and Urbanization Management?, Sustainable Cities and Society, 1(1): 45-53.

Supervised student research

Sunak Y. (2010). Die Auswirkungen von Urbanisierung auf die Energienachfrage in Entwicklungsländern, Master’s thesis, Chair and Institute of Political Science, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, RWTH Aachen University, Chair of Energy Economics and Management, Faculty of Business and Economics, RWTH Aachen University, March.