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BP: Positive signs on renewables but work to do on carbon

The average annual growth in carbon emissions over 2018 and 2019 was greater than its 10-year average, says BP in its new Statistical Review of World Energy.

In its Review, published today (14 September), the energy major highlights the continuing strong growth of renewable energy.

Led by wind and solar power, renewable energy accounted for over 40% of the growth in primary energy in 2019.

At the same time, coal consumption fell for the fourth time in the past six years, and its share of the global energy mix fell to its lowest level for 16 years. However, in spite of this decline, coal was still the largest single source of power generation, accounting for over 36% of global power – compared with just 10% provided by renewable energy.

‘Renewables will have to grow even more strongly over the next three decades to decarbonise the power sector,’ said the report.

In 2018, carbon emissions grew by 2.1% and in 2019 this rate of increase had slowed to 0.5%, which, notes BP, is a cause for concern.

It points to the International Energy Agency’s estimate that global CO2 emissions could fall by as much as 2.6 gigatonnes this year (primarily due to the economic impact of the coronavirus). However, BP highlights that: ‘To get to net zero by 2050, the world requires similar-sized reductions in carbon emissions every other year for the next 25 years.’

It continues: ‘This can be achieved only by a radical shift in all our behaviours. By using resources and energy more efficiently. And by implementing the full range of zero and low carbon energies and technologies at our disposal – including renewable energies, electrification, hydrogen, CCUS (carbon capture use and storage), bioenergy and many more.

‘These technologies exist today – the challenge is to use them at pace and scale.’

In 2019, oil consumption grew by a below average 0.9 million barrels per day (b/d), or 0.9%. Demand for all liquid fuels (including biofuels) rose by 1.1 million b/d and exceeded 100 million b/d for the first time.

Oil consumption growth was led by China (680,000 b/d) and other emerging economies, while demand fell in the OECD (-290,000 b/d).

Natural gas consumption increased by 78 billion cubic metres (bcm), or 2%, well below the 5.3% growth seen in 2018. However, the share of gas in primary energy rose to a record high of 24.2%, with increases in gas demand being driven by the US (27 bcm) and China (24 bcm).

Refinery throughput barely grew at the global level (30,000 b/d), held back by a slow down in oil consumption growth and ‘robust growth’ in NGLs supplies. However, China’s crude runs grew by a record high of 950,000 b/d as new refineries ramped up.

Throughput declined in most other regions, in particular the US (-400,000 b/d) and South and Central America (-300,000 b/d), with the latter region posting its sixth consecutive annual decline.

Renewables energy consumption (which includes biofuels and all traded renewable electricity apart from hydro) continued to grow strongly, contributing its largest increase in energy terms (3.2 EJ) on record. This accounted for over 40% of the global growth in primary energy last year, which is larger than any other fuel. As a result, renewables increased its share in the energy mix from 4.5% in 2018 to 5%.

By energy source, wind generation provided the largest contribution to growth (1.4 EJ) followed closely by solar (1.2 EJ). Other sources of renewable electricity (such as biomass and geothermal) grew by 0.3 EJ, while biofuels consumption increased by 0.2 EJ, or 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

China’s use of renewables grew by more than any other country, although its increase of 0.8 EJ was below the rate of growth seen in 2017 and 2018 (1.2 EJ both years).

Solar provided half of China’s growth, followed by wind (around 40%). The US (0.3 EJ) and Japan (0.2 EJ) were the next largest individual contributors to growth.

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes