Renewables are booming, but fossil fuels are still king in the energy sector. In 2017, over 70% of energy demand growth around the world was met by fossil fuels – oil, natural gas, and coal – leading to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions after a three-year plateau, according to a new report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).
Released this month, the IEA’s first “Global Energy and CO2 Status Report” tracks global trends across energy sector fuels, efficiency, and carbon emissions. According to their data, global energy demand grew by 2.1% in 2017, which was more than twice as fast as in the previous year. Here are some other highlights from the new report:
1. 40% of Global Demand Growth in 2017 was in China and India
Combined, China and India were responsible for 40% of global energy demand growth in 2017. Southeast Asia’s demand also grew quite a bit, accounting for 8% of global energy demand growth while Africa accounted for another 6%.
2. Energy Efficiency Lost Momentum
From 2014-2016, global energy intensity (energy use per unit GDP --- in terms of purchasing power parity) decreased by an average of 2.3% per year. In 2017, energy intensity improved by 1.7%. According to the IEA, this slow-down in energy efficiency gains was due to “weaker improvement” in energy efficiency policy as well as lower global energy prices.
3. Electricity Demand Increased a LOT
Demand for electricity around the globe grew by 3.1%, with China and India accounting for 70% of this growth. Overall electricity generation from renewables grew by ~390 Terawatt-hours (TWh), the most of any other fuel source. Notably, new capacity led to an increase in generation from nuclear power plants of 26 TWh.
4. The Natural Gas Boom Continued – Driven by Industry and Buildings
Thanks to the availability of low-cost natural gas supplies and a growing LNG market, global natural gas demand grew by 3% in 2017. Over 80% of this growth came from increasing demand in industry and buildings, which is a significant shift from the past decade. From 2000-2016, power plants were responsible for 52% of demand growth. In 2017, power accounted for just 15% of growth.
5. Don’t Forget About Oil
While natural gas grew more quickly than oil, global demand for the latter still grew by 1.6% in 2017. This rate is more than twice the average annual rate seen in the preceding decade. According to the IEA, a combination of increasing demand for oil in the petrochemicals industry and people shifting from cars to SUVs and light trucks supported this growth in oil demand.
6. Energy-Related Greenhouse Gas (CO2) Emissions Rose After a 3-year Plateau
After three years of stable carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy sector, emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017 to reach a new historic high. But, the IEA highlights that some major economies - including the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Japan - actually saw declining emissions compared to 2016. According to the IEA, the biggest decline overall came from the United States, predominately due to increasing deployment and use of renewables.