Electrification and digitalization effects on sectoral energy demand and consumption: A prospective study towards 2050

Authors: Xiang Li, Dorsan Lepour, Fabian Heymann, François Maréchal


Energy transition is blurring the boundaries between the demand and supply sides with growing participation of prosumer resources. The intensifying pace of electrification and digitalization during the past decade tends to continue, leading to potential techno-economic-social challenges in energy strategy.

However, it remains difficult to quantify their impacts on a national-level energy system, due to the trade-offs between increasing energy applications and decreasing energy consumption thanks to efficiency improvement. Using Switzerland as a case study, this work unveils the combined effects of (a) macro-economic drivers, (b) climate temperature rise, (c) system optimization, and (d) digitalization, on the end-use demand and final energy consumption in four major energy sectors, considering: industry, residence, mobility, and services.

A systematic bottom-up and top-down approach was adopted, taking into account historical data by sector. The results show that: (1) the overall electricity consumption tends to increase by 20%–32%, while fuel consumption drops by 38%–95%, leading to (2) a total energy consumption reduction by 16%–59%, including the contribution from digitalization 10%–30%. (3) ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) is likely to become increasingly energy intensive, accounting for 25%–35% of electricity consumption, but can play an energy-supplying role through (4) data center heat recovery, promising to cut 15% national heating demand. Finally, the study highlights the importance of an early planning on investment decision and system operation to accommodate the development of electrification and digitalization, in order to meet the carbon neutrality target by 2050.