Global Energy Demand Increase Attributed to Weather

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Published Jun 11, 2019 11:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

BP has released its 68th annual Statistical Review of World Energy, highlighting the growing divergence between demands for action on climate change and the actual pace of progress on reducing carbon emissions. 

Spencer Dale, BP chief economist, said energy demand and carbon emissions are growing at their fastest rate for years. The strength in energy consumption was pretty much reflected across all the fuels, most of which grew more strongly than their historical averages. “The world is on an unsustainable path.”

Dale said that much of the surprising strength in energy consumption in 2018 may be related to weather effects. “In particular, there was an unusually large number of hot and cold days across many of the world’s major demand centers last year, particularly in the U.S., China and Russia, with the increased demand for cooling and heating services helping to explain the strong growth in energy consumption in each of these countries.

“In the U.S., unusually, there was an increase in both heating and cooling days (as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); in past years, high numbers of heating days have tended to coincide with low numbers of cooling days or vice versa. As a result, the increase in the combined number of U.S. heating and cooling days last year was its highest since the 1950s, boosting U.S. energy demand.”

If the weather experienced was just random variation, Dale says the weather effects might return to more normal levels in the future, allowing the growth in energy demand and carbon emissions to fall back. On the other hand, if there is a link between the growing levels of carbon in the atmosphere and the types of weather patterns observed in 2018 this would raise the possibility of a worrying vicious cycle: increasing levels of carbon leading to more extreme weather patterns, which in turn trigger stronger growth in energy (and carbon emissions) as households and businesses seek to offset their effects.

“There are many people better qualified than I to make judgments on this. But even if these weather effects are short lived, such that the growth in energy demand and carbon emissions slow over the next few years, the recent trends still feel very distant from the types of transition paths consistent with meeting the Paris climate goals.

“So, in that sense, there are grounds for us to be worried.”

Key findings from the BP Stats Review 2019 include: 

• Global energy demand grew by 2.9 pwercent and carbon emissions grew by 2.0 percent in 2018, faster than at any time since 2010-11. 
• China, the U.S. and India together accounted for more than two thirds of the global increase in energy demand, with US consumption expanding at its fastest rate for 30 years.

• Oil consumption grew by an above-average 1.4 million barrels per day (b/d), or 1.5 percent. China (680,000 b/d) and the U.S. (500,000 b/d) were the largest contributors to growth.
• Global oil production rose by 2.2 million b/d, or 2.4 percent. Almost all of the net increase was accounted for by the U.S., with their growth in production (2.2 million b/d) a record for any country in any year. Elsewhere, production growth in Canada (410,000 b/d) and Saudi Arabia (390,000 b/d) was outweighed by declines in Venezuela (-580,000 b/d) and Iran (-310,000 b/d).

• Natural gas consumption and production was up over five percent, one of the strongest rates of growth for both demand and output for over 30 years. 
• Growth in gas consumption was driven mainly by the U.S. (78 bcm), supported by China (43 bcm), Russia (23 bcm) and Iran (16 Bcm).
• Global natural gas production increased by 190 bcm, or 5.2 percent. Almost half of this came from the U.S. (86 bcm), which (as with oil production) recorded the largest annual growth seen by any country in history. Russia (34 bcm), Iran (19 bcm) and Australia (17 bcm) were the next largest contributions to growth.

• Renewables grew by 14.5 percent, nearing their record-breaking increase in 2017, but this still accounted for only around a third of the increase in total power generation. 
• By country, China was again the largest contributor to renewables growth (32 mtoe), surpassing growth in the OECD (26 mtoe) for the first time.

• Coal consumption (+1.4 percent) and production (+4.3 percent) increased for the second year in a row in 2018, following three years of decline (2014-16). 

Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive, concluded: "The longer carbon emissions continue to rise, the harder and more costly will be the necessary eventual adjustment to net-zero carbon emissions. As I have said before, this is not a race to renewables, but a race to reduce carbon emissions across many fronts." 

The Review is available here.