Megatrends develop slowly, but they are enormously powerful.
Gross global changes affecting every aspect of the economy and society, they are exerting a profound influence on companies, institutions, and individuals. Consequently, they form the basis for the evolution of entire economic sectors and are often the starting point for farreaching strategies in government policy, companies, and industries, as well as other organizations and stakeholders.
Megatrends are interwoven too. Globalization and urbanization both have a direct impact on our environment, mobility, and connectivity, they all are part of the big whole.
Global megatrends are shaping not only our present but our future too. Today, numerous global research and development projects are focused on megatrends. To face the challenges of a changing world, new concepts, innovative ideas, and alternative approaches are needed, especially in how we source, deliver, and use energy.
According to current predictions, the global population will increase to about 10 billion people in 2050. By then, half of the world’s population will live in major urban centers. Currently, cities cover just 0.5% of the earth’s surface. However, they consume 75% of global resources. By 2030, there will likely be 40 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants each. These megacities will require billions of dollars of infrastructure investment. Furthermore, despite increasing energy efficiency, the energy demands of such megacities will be enormously high. Urban technologies are racing ahead to meet this challenge. An example is the emergence of “smart cities” and “responsive cities”. In smart cities, inhabitants are able to interact intelligently and efficiently with their urban environment while in responsive cities, humans and human well-being are the central focus of planning concepts. Production and use of energy using smart and responsive systems are a key part of sustainable development in urban centers.
As the principle of networking based on digital infrastructures, connectivity describes the dominant basic pattern of social change in the 21st century. Networking and communication technologies are fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and do business. But the digital transformation also has social and cultural impacts. Digitalization should not be equated with technology only but also understood more comprehensively. The digital transformation will play an increasingly important role in all areas of life, resulting in a new awareness of the digital opportunities and a more reflective use of digital devices and technologies.
Demographic developments and economic changes
Every minute the world’s total population increases by some 150 people overall and yet there are drastic regional differences in demographic development. In industrialized nations, populations are typically shrinking, and the majority of the people will soon be over 65 years old. Meanwhile, the population of Asian and African nations is growing. For example, Africa's population will probably have doubled by 2050. This is resulting in a political and economic shift, increasing the economic power of these developing countries and their emerging markets. These changes are also having a profound effect on current and future energy use in developing regions like Asia and Africa.
Climate change and resource scarcity
With an increasing global population, the trend for urbanization, and growing energy demand, it is clear that conventional fossil-based energy sources will reach their limits in the near future. Alternatives to fossil fuels are urgently needed. Without significant change, the average surface temperature of the planet will continue to rise. Although approximately 27% of the world’s demand for electricity is currently satisfied through renewable resources, much more growth in renewable energy capacity is compulsory over the coming years if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided. At 60%, hydropower represents by far the largest share of renewables, even as other renewable sources like wind, biomass, solar and geothermal energy are growing rapidly. Nonetheless, far more renewable energy capacity, including hydropower, is needed to avoid disaster.
Research and development of other zero-carbon energy concepts, such as green hydrogen, is also in full swing. Integrated solutions that optimally combine various renewable technologies are emerging and will be in even greater demand in the future. Environmental awareness and sustainability are now a central economic factor that already influences investment decisions in all businesses.