Photo – Yingze Bridge, Taiyuan City, China, May 27, 2013.1

An energy system is conventionally represented by the figure below –

This post discusses the world’s total final consumption (TFC), here referred to as simply ‘energy consumption’. As shown in the diagram above, this is energy after conversions. The forms and quantities of energy we consume differs from that supplied. For example, some energy supplied by coal is converted and consumed as electricity, and the rest is instead combusted and consumed in industrial applications (e.g. steel manufacture) and domestic applications (e.g. cooking). The calculation of energy consumption allows us to profile how economies utilise the energy supplied.

World energy consumption in chart 1 shows that in 2016, the most recent year for which IEA data is available, almost two thirds of world energy was consumed directly as fossil fuels (63.5%). The world consumed almost twice as much energy from oil than it did from electricity, and two thirds of electricity (65%) was generated by fossil fuels. In 2016 as much electricity was generated from oil as wind. Only 83% of electricity reached the end-user, with 17% of world electricity consumed by transport of fuels for electricity generation (e.g. coal), electricity distribution, and by the electricity industry.

Chart 1. World energy consumption (TFC), year 2016, data IEA.2 The dashed segment in the left hand most pie chart represents the equivalent share of electricity if the quantity produced in 2016 was produced within a 100% wind/water/solar (WWS) energy system, serving to demonstrate the remaining change needed for full electrification. The 20.7% in 2016 equates to 48.2% under WWS, as shown. The share of electricity becomes greater because total energy consumption of a 100% WWS system reduces to 42.9% of business-as-usual.3 4 This is due to: (a) using heat pumps for building heat; (b) using electricity for industrial heat; (c) using battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; (d) eliminating mining, transportation and processing of fuels, and (e) efficiency improvements. Also note (i) Non-energy use of energy sources excluded (e.g. oil used for lubrication); (ii) Transport & Distribution Losses include gas distribution, electricity transmission, and coal transport; and (iii) Examples of Electricity Industry Own-Use include energy consumed in coal mines, own consumption in power plants and energy used for oil and gas extraction.5

Proportions of coal and gas in chart 1 are shown alongside electricity because, as explained above, not all energy from coal and gas is consumed as electricity.

Chart 2 shows world energy consumption between years 1990 and 2016. Oil clearly dominated, and increased linearly along with electricity, gas and biofuels. Up to 2016, there had been no non-linear increase in the world’s electricity consumption. Coal varied with industrial output, dictated by China’s industrial coal consumption, shown in chart 12 of China’s energy system profile.

Chart 2. World energy consumption (TFC), 1990 – 2016, data IEA.2 Non-energy use of energy sources excluded (e.g. oil used for lubrication).

The following charts show energy consumption by economic sector. Chart 3 shows the energy consumption of the industrial sector, again dictated by consumption of coal by China’s industry –

Chart 3, Industry. Energy consumption (TFC) of world industrial sector, data IEA.2

Energy consumption of the transport sector is shown in chart 4. Oil’s share in 2016 was 92%, while electricity slowly increased to reach 1%. The magnitude and increasing rate of oil consumption eclipsed that of all other energy sources.

Chart 4, Transport. Energy consumption (TFC) of world transport sector, data IEA.2 Note: this includes rail and aviation.

Chart 5 shows the same data excluding oil, revealing the slow increase of electricity.

Chart 5, Transport excl oil. Energy consumption (TFC) of world transport sector excluding oil, data IEA.2 Note: this includes rail and aviation.

Lastly, energy consumption of all other sectors is shown below. Note the consistent linear increase of share and quantity of electricity consumption, plausibly by the residential and commercial sectors.

Chart 6, All other sectors. Energy consumption (TFC) of world commercial, residential, agriculture and fishing sectors combined, data IEA.2

Chart 7 shows electricity generation over time. Coal clearly dominated. Electricity from wind increased to equal that from oil, and the share of solar electricity was low.

Chart 7. World electricity generation, 1990 – 2016, data IEA.2

More recent electricity data is available from BP, plotted in the charts below. Chart 8 and 9 show world electricity generation for years 2017 and 2018. Although hydro is shown separately from renewables, it is of course also renewable.

Chart 8. World electricity generation, years 2017 & 2018, data BP(2019).6 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Solid Biofuels; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.7
Chart 9. World electricity generation, years 2017 & 2018, data BP(2019).6 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Solid Biofuels; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.7

Chart 10 shows the changes of electricity generation between years 2017 and 2018. The increase in fossil fuelled electricity generation was 9% greater than that from hydro and renewables combined.8

Chart 10. Changes in world electricity generation between years 2017 & 2018, data BP(2019).6 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Solid Biofuels; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.7

In summary: (i) in 2016, 64% of world energy consumption was consumed directly as fossil fuels with only 20% consumed as electricity, of which 65% was generated by fossil fuels; (ii) in 2018, the increase in generation of electricity from fossil fuels was 9% greater than that of all renewables combined;8 (iii) almost 20% of electricity was lost, or consumed by the electricity industry; and (iv) electricity in the transport sector in 2016 accounted for 1% and oil 92%, and the rate of energy consumption of oil increased rapidly.

  1. https://abcnews.go.com/International/photos/photos-pollution-china-19628137/image-19628281()
  2. https://www.iea.org/statistics/()()()()()()()
  3. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/TimelineDetailed.pdf()
  4. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/WorldGridIntegration.pdf()
  5. https://www.iea.org/statistics/resources/balancedefinitions/()
  6. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html()()()
  7. https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()()()
  8. 457/(128+291) = 1.09()()
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