February 2011

Explaining the Energy Consumption Portfolio in a Cross-Section of Countries: Are the BRICs Different?

David M. Arseneau


This paper uses disaggregated data from a broad cross-section of countries to empirically assess differences in energy consumption profiles across countries. We find empirical support for the energy ladder hypothesis, which contends that as an economy develops it transits away from a heavier reliance on traditional fuel sources towards an increase in the use of modern commercial energy sources. We also find empirical support for the hypothesis that structural transformation--the idea that as an economy matures, it transforms away from agriculture-based activity into industrial activity and, finally, fully matures into a service-oriented economy--is an important driver for the distribution of end-use energy consumption. However, even when these two hypotheses are taken into account, we continue to find evidence suggesting that the patterns of energy consumption in the BRIC economies are importantly different from those of other economies.

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Keywords: Energy and development, energy ladder hypothesis, structural transformation

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Last Update: July 10, 2020