Another View of Energy Growth

Another View of Energy Growth

Actual dimensions matter.

Usually, growth is always reported in relative terms, percentages over a given time period, as in this well selected graph:

Figure 1 Compounded Annual Growth Rates (CAGR) of primary energies over the past 10 and 5 years. Source: BP Review 2019

With details in the following table.

​           ​CAGR 2008-2018 ​CAGR 2013-2018
​  Fossil fuels 1.4% ​1.1%
​     Oil
1.2%​1.4%
​     Gas
​2.5%​ 2.7%
​     Coal
​0.7%​-0.5%
​Nuclear​-0.1%​1.6%
​Hydropower ​2.6%​2.0%
​Renewables​16.3%14.7%
​     Solar
​46.7%​33.3%
​     Wind
19.1%​14.5%
​     Others
​7.1%​6.2%
​Total ​1.7%​1.6%
​ World GDP (2010 US$)​2.9%​2.5%

Are actually fast-growing mice such as renewable energy (solar, wind and
biomass) overtaking fossil elephants?

Energy demand is growing steadily, slower but in proportion with the World economic growth. The part of fossil fuels remains preponderant; in 2008 they made 87.4% of all energy consumption; in 2018, after a decade of intense promotion of renewables, this reliance remains overwhelming, with 84.7% of the total.

Figure 2 World mix of primary energies in 2008 and 2018 Source: BP Review 2019

These considerations are relative, all expressed in percent; and percentages are already a biased representation of reality.

One can imagine one ton of oil, or 7 and 1/3 barrels, each containing 159 litres. But nobody can picture one percent. This is why statistics should first be looked at in absolute terms, those that correspond to the physical reality. The shape of the picture changes radically, as shown on the following graph, putting in perspective the actual orders of magnitude, in millions of ton of oil equivalent (Mtoe).

Figure 3 Annual growth of primary energy consumption. In Mtoe per year. Source: BP Review 2019

In 2008-2009, the financial crisis induced a negative growth of the World's economy and, in parallel, of the use of energy. In the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan in March 2011, the nuclear power plants of this country remained closed for a long time. This technology is again on a growth path, albeit without significant impact on the total. Within the power sector, nuclear represents nowadays 10% of the generated electricity.

The contribution of each sector to the annual growth has changed over time as shown on the following graph.

Figure 4 Role played by each primary energy in satisfying the consumption growth. Source: BP review 2019

After contributing by almost half to the total growth in 2014-2015, the renewables are losing momentum. It may mean that, after first low hanging fruits could be harvested thanks to various schemes of state support, their economic attractiveness is no more promising.

One conclusion is certain: no substitution of fossil fuels has yet taken place.

On the contrary, fossil fuels are necessary to supply 70% of the demand growth while renewables cover only 20 % of it. At this pace, it will take decades before the withdrawal from fossil fuels could even begin. This is good news for investors in Oil&Gas as the stocks values are at their lowest since a decade.


Given the scale of the issue, it is surreal to call for an immediate retreat from the use of fossils and a ban on investment in this sector.

Reblog from MR-int's blog

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Martin Schlumpf am 14.09.2019
Ausgezeichnete Analyse!

Deine Grafiken sind ausserordentlich wichtig! Besten Dank dafür.
Vor allem die Grafiken 3 und 4 zeigen ja deutlich, dass der Anteil der Erneuerbaren am jährlichen Mehrverbrauch seit drei Jahren wieder stark rückläufig, und der fossile Anteil entsprechend zunehmend ist. Das pure Gegenteil dessen, was durch das Pariser Abkommen erreicht werden soll - Offenbar will das aber niemand hören!

Deine Grafiken sind ausserordentlich wichtig! Besten Dank dafür. Vor allem die Grafiken 3 und 4 zeigen ja deutlich, dass der Anteil der Erneuerbaren am jährlichen Mehrverbrauch seit drei Jahren wieder stark rückläufig, und der fossile Anteil entsprechend zunehmend ist. Das pure Gegenteil dessen, was durch das Pariser Abkommen erreicht werden soll - Offenbar will das aber niemand hören!
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