Record global energy demand drives CO2 emissions increase

Global energy-related CO2 emissions increased last year as demand for energy grew by 2.3 per cent, a rise driven partly by stronger heating and cooling needs in some regions.

co2 emissions

These findings are part of the International Energy Agency’s Global Energy & CO2 Status Report  which assesses global energy consumption and energy-related CO2 emissions for 2018. It found demand for energy rising at its fastest pace this decade with natural gas accounting for 45 per cent of the rise in energy consumption with strong growth in China and the US.

Demand for all fuels increased, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70 per cent of the growth for the second year running. Solar and wind generation grew at double-digit pace, with solar increasing by 31 per cent.

As a result, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 per cent to 33 Gigatonnes (Gt) in 2018. Coal use in power generation alone surpassed 10Gt, accounting for a third of total emissions, with most of it generated by a young fleet of coal power plants in Asia.

Global electricity demand grew by four per cent in 2018 to more than 23,000TWh, pushing electricity towards a 20 per cent share in 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, for wind and solar, followed by Europe and the US.

Energy intensity improved by 1.3 per cent 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.

“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, utilisation and storage,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Dowman-Tucker, CEO of Southampton-based Bowman Power Group said: “It is clear there has never been a more critical time for energy efficiency technologies. Whilst overall energy intensity has fallen by 1.3 per cent – driven by more efficient fuel sources and technologies – we are disappointed to see this is a smaller reduction than in previous years.

“The IEA’s statement that there has been “lacklustre progress on implementing new energy efficiency policies or increasing the stringency of existing policies” does help explain some of the decline, however we do feel times are starting to change. At the end of 2018 the Medium Combustion Plant Directive came in to force, and there are other regulations on the horizon that will reduce emissions and lead to improved efficiency.”

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 United States, and India accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the rise in energy demand around the world.