Global energy demand: more green power, more co2

Global energy consumption rose sharply in 2018, as did greenhouse gas emissions. This is undoing progress on renewables.

The world’s hunger for energy is constantly increasing – as are CO2 emissions Photo: dpa

Worldwide, the expansion of renewable energies is progressing rapidly – but it is not enough to satisfy the world’s hunger for energy. In 2018, global energy demand rose by 2.3 percent, faster than ever before this decade. And because it was met primarily by gas and coal, CO2 emissions from the energy sector also climbed 1.7 percent to a record high of 33 billion metric tons. That’s according to the latest "Global Energy and CO2 Status Report" published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Tuesday.

The IEA blames this increase mainly on the growth of the global economy, cold winters and hot summers, which drove up demand for heating and cooling. In addition, energy efficiency increased by 1.3 percent, only half as much as in the previous three years, as policymakers relaxed the rules. Still, nearly half of the increased energy appetite is being met by green energy, 31 percent from solar alone.

But a truly "golden year" in 2018 was mostly for gas, said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. "Despite strong growth in renewables, global CO2 emissions are rising. This shows how urgent action is needed on all fronts – developing clean energy, reducing emissions, improving efficiency, and incentivizing investments and innovations like carbon storage."

Another piece of bad news for the climate is that global coal consumption increased, by 0.7 percent. Particularly worrying is the fact that this is mainly due to relatively young power plants in China and India, which still have a long lifespan. Oil consumption for energy generation increased by 1.3 percent, for the first time in twenty years with the USA in the lead.

Nuclear power also grew by 3.3 percent, returning to the global level it had been at before the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. The main reason for this is new nuclear power plants in China and the return of four reactors to the grid in Japan.

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