The car consuming energy to deliver its promise of independence and personal freedom. Careful consideration of make and model is imperative? Traffic jam, Yingze Bridge, Taiyuan City, China, May 27, 2013.1

As shown in figure 1 of Intro Part 4, the form and quantity of energy we consume (known as ‘total final consumption’ (TFC)) differs from that which is 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 total final consumption allows us to profile how economies annually utilise the energy supplied.

World total final consumption for year 2016 using IEA data2 is shown in Chart 1 (this is the latest year for which IEA data is freely available). This shows the world consumed just over twice as much energy from oil than it did electricity, and about two thirds of electricity was generated by fossil fuels. Of electricity from non-hydro renewables, 4% was generated by wind, and 4% from all other forms combined. Only 10% of electricity was nuclear. The world in 2016 generated as much electricity from oil as it did wind.

Chart 1. World total final consumption (TFC), year 2016.

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. Also, heat refers to heat consumed that is generated by heat pumps or boilers.

Chart 2 shows world total final consumption during 1990 to 2016, that is clearly dominated by oil that has grown almost incessantly. Nobody seems to care about this, but travel is integral to personal enjoyment and professional development, and one can’t expect anyone to compromise these just for the sake of a safe climate? (For an explanation of the units refer to table 1 in Intro Part 4).

Chart 2. World total final consumption, 1990 – 2016.

Chart 3 compares world total final consumption by share in 1990 with 2016. The only notable and significant change is an increase in the share of electricity of 46%, from 13% to 19% (i.e. 19/13). The lack of change over this year 26 year period is stark and abhorrent.

Chart 3 World total final consumption by share, 1990 compared with 2016.

Chart 4 shows electricity generation over the same time period. Coal clearly dominates with generation consistently much greater than all others. Compare both forms of solar with coal or gas. And electricity generated by wind in 2016 equaled that generated by oil. Talk about aiming low.

Chart 4. World electricity generation, 1990 – 2016.

In summary, 40% of the world’s total final consumption of energy in 2016 was solely oil, and only 20% electricity. About two thirds of that was generated by fossil fuels, 17% hydro, 10% nuclear, and wind and solar combined were only about 5%. For a reminder of how negligible wind and solar energy supplies are, table 1 of World Energy Supply shows their combined share was only 2% of world energy in 2016.

So much for the 24 UNFCCC climate meetings thus far. Young people have the older generations to thank for this omnishambles.

  1. https://abcnews.go.com/International/photos/photos-pollution-china-19628137/image-19628281
  2. http://iea.org/statistics/