Published on March 27th, 2019 |
by Joshua S Hill
March 27th, 2019 by Joshua S Hill
Global energy demand increased by 2.3% in 2018, the fastest pace of growth this decade, driven by a strong global economy and increased heating and cooling needs, subsequently driving global energy-related CO2 emissions up by 1.7% to 33 gigatonnes.
These are the primary findings from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Energy & CO2 Status Report published this week, which is designed to provide an update on the world’s energy markets, including the latest available data for oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, nuclear power, electricity, and energy efficiency. According to the Report, demand for all fuels increased in 2018, but it was fossil fuels which benefited the most, accounting for nearly 70% of global growth for the second year in a row. Solar and wind generation grew at double-digit pace — solar’s growth was 31% — but natural gas was the favored source of energy generation in 2018, accounting for 45% of the rise in energy consumption.
It should come as no surprise, then, that global energy-related CO2 emissions rose in 2018 by 1.7% to 33 gigatonnes (Gt). Globally, coal use in power generation surpassed 10 Gt all on its own and accounted for a third of the total increase — the majority of which was sourced from developing Asia’s burgeoning coal fleet; in fact, the majority of coal-fired generation capacity is found in Asia, with the average age of coal-fired plants sitting at 12 years — not good news, when you consider the average lifetimes are around 50 years.
“We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “Last year can also be considered another golden year for gas, which accounted for almost half the growth in global energy demand. But despite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts — developing all clean energy solutions, curbing emissions, improving efficiency, and spurring investments and innovation, including in carbon capture, utilization and storage.”
The report also showed that electricity continues on its course to becoming the dominant “fuel” of the future, with global electricity demand growing by 4% in 2018 to more than 23,000 terawatt-hours (TWh), pushing electricity towards a 20% share of total final consumption of energy and accounting for half of the growth in primary energy demand in 2018. Renewable energy sources were a major contributing factor to this power generation expansion, accounting for nearly half of all electricity growth around the world in 2018. China remains the world’s leading renewable energy country, both for wind and solar, followed by Europe and then the United States.
Overall, almost a fifth of the increase in global energy demand in 2018 came from a higher demand for heating and cooling as the average winter and summer temperatures in some regions around the world approached or exceeded historical records.
The world’s three largest energy intensive countries, China, the United States, and India, together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in global energy demand. The United States experienced the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide, last year, and its gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year — the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records dating back to 1971. Globally, gas demand expanded at its fastest rate since 2010, with year-on-year growth of 4.6%, the second straight year of strong growth, driven by higher demand and coal’s decreasing role in the global energy mix. While led by the United States, gas demand in China also increased by almost 18%.
Oil demand grew by 1.3% in 2018, with the United States again leading the way for the first time in 20 years thanks to a strong expansion in the country’s petrochemicals industry, rising industrial production, and trucking services.
Coal consumption increased by 0.7% in 2018, but the good news out of this is that increases were only seen in Asia, specifically in China, India, and a few countries in South and Southeast Asia. This would seem to suggest that Western coal policies are slowly beginning to have an impact on the overall.
“According to the findings that are part of the International Energy Agency’s latest assessment of global energy consumption and energy-related CO2 emissions for 2018, we are seeing a significant increase in the consumption of electricity, especially in highly developed countries,” said Landry Ninteretse, 350 Africa Regional Team Leader, speaking via email. “Three countries in Africa experienced the harrowing weather shocks of Cyclone Idai so the demand for fossil fuels is especially disconcerting as scientific evidence points to fossil fuels as directly contributing to unstable climate conditions. Accelerating the global transition towards low carbon emissions means phasing out all fossil fuels projects. Globally, coal plants are being shut down one after another and strong commitments are being made by leaders in the global “North”. However, Africa remains the only continent where extraction of coal to meet the demand seems acceptable, and continues to grow, while it’s the most vulnerable continent to climate change.
“The costs that are being felt now during the aftermath of Cyclone Idai are a clear indicator of what awaits us should we not choose the path to a future that leads to clean energy.”