Energy in economic growth: Is faster growth greener?

SRI Seminar Programme presented by Gregor Semieniuk, SOAS University of London.


An influential theoretical hypothesis holds that if aggregate productivity growth accelerates, then so does the decline in energy intensity. Whether faster growth is greener in this sense is key for modeling global economic output and energy demand, but empirical evidence is lacking. This paper characterizes the global, long-run historical relationship between changes in energy intensity and labour productivity growth rates. Basing estimates on an unbalanced panel of 180 countries for the period 1950-2014 and the world as a whole, it captures a significantly larger historical window than previous studies. The paper finds a stylized fact whereby the rate at which energy intensity changes is constant or even increases as labour productivity accelerates. Faster growth is not greener. This provides important new information for calibrating integrated assessment models, many of which make a greener growth assumption in near term projections.



Dr Gregor Semieniuk is a lecturer in the SOAS Department of Economics. His research focuses on economic growth, energy demand and structural change towards low-carbon sectors, in particular how policies and portfolio decisions by different private and public investors influence the rate and direction of innovation. He also studies how macroeconomic trends can affect social inequality. Gregor has been a consultant to BEIS, is a lead author of the 2018 UNEP Emissions Gap report’s chapter on innovation and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, where he helps steer the Green Innovation strand. Gregor holds a Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research (New York).