Group chief executive
Welcome to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, which records the events of 2018: a year in which there was a growing divide between societal demands for an accelerated transition to a low carbon energy system and the actual pace of progress.
In particular, the data compiled in this year’s Review suggest that in 2018, global energy demand and carbon emissions from energy use grew at their fastest rate since 2010-11, moving even further away from the accelerated transition envisaged by the Paris climate goals.
BP’s economics team estimate that much of the rise in energy growth last year can be traced back to weather-related effects, as families and businesses increased their demand for cooling and heating in response to an unusually large number of hot and cold days. The acceleration in carbon emissions was the direct result of this increased energy consumption.
Even if these weather effects are short-lived, such that the growth in energy demand and carbon emissions slow over the next few years, there seems little doubt that the current pace of progress is inconsistent with the Paris climate goals. The world is on an unsustainable path: the longer carbon emissions continue to rise, the harder and more costly will be the eventual adjustment to net-zero carbon emissions. Yet another year of growing carbon emissions underscores the urgency for the world to change.
The Statistical Review provides a timely and objective insight into those developments and how that change can begin to be achieved.
The strength in energy consumption was reflected across all the fuels, many of which grew more strongly than their recent historical averages. This acceleration was particularly pronounced for natural gas, which grew at one of its fastest rates for over 30 years, accounting for over 40% of the growth in primary energy. On the supply side, the data for 2018 reinforced the central importance of the US shale revolution. Remarkably, the US recorded the largest ever annual increases by any country in both oil and natural gas production last year, with the vast majority of both increases coming from onshore shale plays. At the same time, renewable energy, led by wind and solar power, continued to grow far more rapidly than any other form of energy.
The developments documented in this year’s Statistical Review highlight a critical challenge facing the global power sector. Power demand increased even more strongly than overall energy demand in 2018, as the world continued to electrify. But this shift towards greater electrification can play an important part in the energy transition only if it is accompanied by a decarbonization of the power sector.
Despite the continuing rapid growth in renewable energy last year, it provided only a third of the required increase in power generation, with coal providing a broadly similar contribution. Indeed, the increasing use of coal within the power sector is estimated to have more than accounted for the entire growth of global coal consumption last year.
Overall, the electric power sector is estimated to have absorbed around half of the growth in primary energy in 2018 and accounted for around half of the increase in carbon emissions.
Decarbonizing the power sector while also meeting the rapidly expanding demand for power, particularly in the developing world, is perhaps the single most important challenge facing the global energy system over the next 20 years. Renewable energy has a vital role to play in meeting that challenge. But it is unlikely to be able to do so on its own. A variety of different technologies and fuels are likely to be required, including extensive coal-togas switching and the widespread deployment of carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS). As I have said before, this is not a race to renewables, it is a race to reduce carbon emissions across many fronts.
Our industry, and society more generally, face significant challenges as we navigate the transition to a low carbon energy system. That will require understanding and judgement, both of which rely on the kind of objective data and analysis found in the Statistical Review. We are proud of the role that the BP Statistical Review has played in informing public debate over the past 68 years and I hope that you find it a useful resource for your own discussions and deliberations.
Let me conclude by thanking BP’s economics team and all those who have helped us prepare this Review – particularly those governments and statistical agencies around the world who have contributed their official data again this year. Thank you for your continuing co-operation and transparency.
Group chief executive
Spencer Dale, group chief economist, analyses issues affecting demand and supply across fuel types around the world in 2018