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Global energy demand rose in 2018 as did carbon emissions – new IEA report

Energy demand worldwide grew by 2.3 percent last year, its fastest pace this decade, an exceptional performance driven by a robust global economy and stronger heating and cooling needs in some regions according to a new report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Natural gas emerged as the fuel of choice, posting the biggest gains and accounting for 45 percent of the rise in energy consumption. Gas demand growth was especially strong in the United States and China.

Energy consumption worldwide grew by 2.3% in 2018, nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy as well as higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world. The biggest gains came from natural gas accounting for nearly 45% of the increase in total energy demand. Demand for all fuels rose, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70% of the growth for the second year running. Renewables grew at double-digit pace, but still not fast enough to meet the increase in demand for electricity around the world. Higher energy demand was propelled by a global economy that expanded by 3.7% in 2018, a higher pace than the average annual growth of 3.5% seen since 2010. China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand. As a result of higher energy consumption, global energy-related CO2 emissions increased to 33.1 Gt CO2, up 1.7%. Coal-fired power generation continues to be the single largest emitter, accounting for 30% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (graphic courtesy IEA).

Energy consumption worldwide grew by 2.3% in 2018, nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy as well as higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world. The biggest gains came from natural gas accounting for nearly 45% of the increase in total energy demand. Demand for all fuels rose, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70% of the growth for the second year running. Renewables grew at a double-digit pace, but still not fast enough to meet the increase in demand for electricity around the world. Higher energy demand was propelled by a global economy that expanded by 3.7% in 2018, a higher pace than the average annual growth of 3.5% seen since 2010. China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand. As a result of higher energy consumption, global energy-related CO2 emissions increased to 33.1 Gt CO2, up 1.7%. Coal-fired power generation continues to be the single largest emitter, accounting for 30% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (graphic courtesy IEA).

These findings are part of the International Energy Association (IEA’s) latest assessment of global energy consumption and energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for 2018. The report, “Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2018” released March 26, 2019, provides a high-level and up-to-date view of energy markets, including 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, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70 percent of the growth for the second year running. Solar and wind generation grew at a double-digit pace, with solar alone increasing by 31 percent. Still, that was not fast enough to meet higher electricity demand around the world that also drove up the use of coal.

Coal use in power generation alone surpassed 10 Gt, accounting for a third of total emissions. Most of that came from a young fleet of coal power plants in developing Asia. The majority of coal-fired generation capacity today is found in Asia, with 12-year-old plants on average, decades short of average lifetimes of around 50 years.

As a result, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33 Gigatonnes (Gt) in 2018.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew 1.7% in 2018 to reach a historic high of 33.1 Gt CO2. It was the highest rate of growth since 2013, and 70% higher than the average increase since 2010. Last year's growth of 560 Mt was equivalent to the total emissions from international aviation. The increase in emissions was driven by higher energy consumption resulting from a robust global economy, as well as from weather conditions in some parts of the world that led to increased energy demand for heating and cooling. CO2 emissions stagnated between 2014 and 2016, even as the global economy continued to expand. This decoupling was primarily the result of strong energy efficiency improvements and low-carbon technology deployment, leading to a decline in coal demand. This changed in 2017 and 2018 as higher economic growth was not met by higher energy productivity, lower-carbon options did not scale fast enough to meet the demand rise (graphic courtesy IEA).

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew 1.7% in 2018 to reach a historic high of 33.1 Gt CO2. It was the highest rate of growth since 2013, and 70% higher than the average increase since 2010. Last year’s growth of 560 Mt was equivalent to the total emissions from international aviation. The increase in emissions was driven by higher energy consumption resulting from a robust global economy, as well as from weather conditions in some parts of the world that led to increased energy demand for heating and cooling. CO2 emissions stagnated between 2014 and 2016, even as the global economy continued to expand. This decoupling was primarily the result of strong energy efficiency improvements and low-carbon technology deployment, leading to a decline in coal demand. This changed in 2017 and 2018 as higher economic growth was not met by higher energy productivity, lower-carbon options did not scale fast enough to meet the demand rise (graphic courtesy IEA).

Electricity continues to position itself as the “fuel” of the future, with global electricity demand growing by 4 percent in 2018 to more than 23 000 TWh. This rapid growth is pushing electricity towards a 20 percent share in the total final consumption of energy. Increasing power generation was responsible for half of the growth in primary energy demand.

Renewables were a major contributor to this power generation expansion, accounting for nearly half of electricity demand growth. China remains the leader in renewables, both for wind and solar, followed by Europe and the United States (US).

Energy intensity improved by 1.3 percent last year, just half the rate of the period between 2014-2016. This third consecutive year of slowdown was the result of weaker energy efficiency policy implementation and strong demand growth in more energy intensive economies.

We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade. 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, said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA.

China, US, and India driving energy demand increase

Almost a fifth of the increase in global energy demand came from higher demand for heating and cooling as average winter and summer temperatures in some regions approached or exceeded historical records. Cold snaps drove demand for heating and, more significantly, hotter summer temperatures pushed up demand for cooling.

Together, China, the US, and India accounted for nearly 70 percent of the rise in energy demand around the world. The US saw the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide – US gas consumption jumped 10 percent from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971.

The annual increase in US demand last year was equivalent to the United Kingdom’s current gas consumption.

Global gas demand expanded at its fastest rate since 2010, with year-on-year growth of 4.6 percent, the second consecutive year of strong growth, driven by higher demand and substitution from coal. Demand growth was led by the US whereas gas demand in China increased by almost 18 percent.

Oil demand grew 1.3 percent worldwide, with the US again leading the global increase for the first time in 20 years due to a strong expansion in petrochemicals, rising industrial production and trucking services.

Global coal consumption rose 0.7 percent, with increases seen only in Asia, particularly in China, India and a few countries in South and Southeast Asia. Nuclear also grew by 3.3 percent in 2018, with global generation reaching pre-Fukushima levels, mainly as a result of new additions in China and the restart of four reactors in Japan. Worldwide, nuclear plants met 9 percent of the increase in electricity demand.

After three years of decline, energy demand in the United States rebounded in 2018, growing by 3.7%, or 80 Mtoe, nearly one-quarter of global growth. A hotter-than-average summer and colder-than-average winter were responsible for around half of the increase in gas demand in the United States, as gas needs grew both for electricity generation and for heating.
India saw primary energy demand increase 4% or over 35 Mtoe, accounting for 11% of global growth, the third-largest share. Growth in India was led by coal (for power generation) and oil (for transport), the first and second biggest contributors to energy demand growth, respectively. Energy demand in Europe in 2018 followed a different path. Despite an economic expansion of 1.8%, demand increased by only 0.2% (graphic courtesy IEA).

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