Photo – Petroleum refinery in Detroit.1 Most of the world’s energy is supplied by oil.
As with other posts on this site, this uses data from the IEA2 and BP.3 Although the latest year of data from BP is more recent than that from the IEA (2018 vs 2016 respectively), BP’s data doesn’t fully account for biofuels, and incorrectly categorises energy from solid biofuels as renewable.4 For these reasons as explained further in the introduction, and unless otherwise indicated, the charts here are of IEA data.
An energy system is conventionally represented by the figure below –
Scientific studies and the IEA use the term ‘total primary energy supply’ (TPES) to describe, or account for energy in its primary form prior to any conversions such as coal to electricity, whereas energy in forms purchased and used by the consumer is accounted for separately as ‘total final consumption’ (TFC). A profile can be determined for each, for any country or the world. For simplicity this website uses the terms ‘energy supply’ and ‘energy consumption’ respectively. This post is only concerned with the world’s energy supply.
An energy supply describes energy sources supplied to an energy system in their primary forms, prior to any conversions. To account for energy supplied by non-combustible sources, such as renewables which have natural forms of primary energy (sun, wind etc), it’s conventional to calculate for each the equivalent quantity of energy that would be required to be input to a thermal power station of average efficiency. In other words, an equivalent amount of primary energy is determined, allowing the primary energy supplied by all sources to be compared in a relative manner. This is explained further in the introduction.
The world energy supply is shown in chart 1, and in expanded form in chart 2 –
The world energy supply is shown below using BP’s data. Note the recent increase of fossil fuels in 2018. Chart 4 shows this was due to the increase in supply of energy from gas. Coal recently increased and oil continues to relentlessly increase.
Annual changes of world energy supply for years 2000 to 2018 are shown below in chart 5. Charts 3 and 5 together show that only does the total energy supplied by fossil fuels continue to dwarf renewables, but the same holds true for the annual change of energy, excluding years 2014 and 2015 (the same can be said of 2009, the year of the global financial crisis, due to the large rebound in 2010). Note the increasing trend of fossil fuels since 2015.
Chart 6 shows the annual percentage change of each energy source. The upper chart shows the rate of change relative to total energy supply for a given year, and the bottom shows the rate of change of each energy supply in isolation (relative to its own previous annual value). Again note the recent rapid increase in the growth of fossil fuels and stalling of the growth of renewables –
Numerical values of the World’s energy supply for recent years is shown below, calculated using IEA data (BP data is unsuitable for this level of detail).
Non-hydro renewables grew very rapidly (22%/yr) but was dwarfed by fossil fuels that also grew. Just the increase of energy supplied by fossil fuels (10.5EJ) was two thirds of all that supplied by non-hydro renewables in 2016 (15.3EJ).
Energy from biofuels and waste consistently grew which is a concern. In 2016, 93% of energy from biofuels and waste was supplied by solid biofuels6 (the remaining 7% was supplied by liquid biofuels, biogases and waste). Of that 93%, about half in 2015 was supplied as dung and wood used for cooking and heating7 by about 2.5 billion people.8 This causes millions of deaths annually, damages health, and inhibits education and development.9 The other half was supplied as wood pellets and wood chips from forests for thermal power stations. The assessment of carbon emissions from this is a mire, distorted by: (i) incorrect carbon-accountancy that assumes solid biofuels are carbon-neutral, (ii) a lack of regulation, and (iii) deceptive marketing by trade associations and biofuel companies. This is explained further in the post titled Biofuels.
Charts 7 and 8 display world energy supply by share –
Numerical values are shown below for 1990, 2012 and 2016 –
There was little change over 26 years. The share of fossil fuels reduced from 79.1% to 77.5%, while that of non-hydro renewables grew to 2.5%.
A measure of decarbonisation is the carbon intensity of total primary energy supply, which is a measure of the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted for every Joule of energy supplied. Chart 9 shows there hasn’t been any significant decarbonisation of the world’s energy supply. The curve is almost flat.
The charts above placed into context of the Climate & Energy pages on this site demonstrate that a chasm exists between a safe climate and business as usual.
- Chart format copied from Global Carbon Project, Global Carbon Budget 2018, slide 30, http://folk.uio.no/roberan/GCB2018.shtml
- Using IEA’s 2016 biofuels and waste figures from the Renewables and Waste balances table at https://www.iea.org/statistics/, Domestic Supply row: 49,151,961 / (49,151,961 + 1,431,677 + 1,032,980 + 1,312,646 + 110,747) = 93%.