Photo – The car consuming energy to deliver its promise of independence and personal freedom. Traffic jam, Yingze Bridge, Taiyuan City, China, May 27, 2013.1

The previous post, world energy supply, is recommended reading prior to this post and explains some concepts used below.

As shown in figure 1 of the introduction, the forms and quantities of energy we consume is known as ‘total final consumption’ (TFC) and for simplicity renamed here ‘energy consumption’. This differs from the forms and quantities of energy that’s 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 annually utilise the energy supplied.

World energy 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 from electricity, and just over half of electricity (56%) was generated by fossil fuels. The world in 2016 generated as much electricity from oil as it did wind. 14% of electricity was consumed by transport of fuels (e.g. coal), distribution loses and by the electricity generation industry.

Chart 1. World energy 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.

Chart 2 shows world energy consumption during 1990 to 2016, which is clearly dominated by oil that has grown almost incessantly. (For an explanation of the units refer to table 1 in the introduction).

Chart 2. World energy consumption (TFC), 1990 – 2016.

Chart 3 compares world energy 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 energy consumption (TFC) 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.

Chart 4. World electricity generation, 1990 – 2016.

In summary, 40% of the world’s energy consumption in 2016 was solely consumed as oil, and only 20% as electricity. Just over half electricity was generated from fossil fuels.