The World Energy System

Every year energy use increases, and in 2018 the addition of fossil fuelled primary energy outpaced that from renewables for the 3rd consecutive year.

Fossil fuels accounted for 65% of electricity generation and the annual increase of fossil fuelled electricity generation was 9% greater than the combination of hydro and renewables.

The amount of CO2 released per unit of primary energy in 2015 was the same as that in 1995.

The concepts presented here are explained in the post Energy Accounting.

CO₂ Emissions

Chart 1.(a) World fossil fuel and cement CO2 emissions, 1959-2019. (b) Fossil fuel CO2 emissions (the energy sector), 1959-2019. Data: Global Carbon Project (2019).1 Projected values used for year 2019, taken from the Global Carbon Project’s Budget 2019 presentation.2

Primary Energy Supply

Chart 2 World primary energy supply (TPES), 1990 to 2018. RH-most shaded bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. Data: BP(2019).3 4 5
Chart 3. World primary energy supply (TPES), 1990 to 2018, expanded. RH-most shaded bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. Data: BP(2019).3 4 5

Every year energy use increases, & most of the increases come from fossil fuels.

Glen Peters, Research Director at Center for International Climate Research.6
Chart 4. Annual change of world primary energy supply, 2000 to 2018. Data: Calculated using BP(2019).3 4 5
Chart 5. Annual rate of change of world primary energy supply, 1990 to 2018. Data: Calculated using BP(2019).3 4 5

Top: Change of quantity of energy from each source relative to total quantity from all sources, for example:
[Hydro (year[n]) – Hydro (year[n-1])] / Total energy supplied by all sources (year[n-1]).

Bottom: Change of quantity of energy from each energy source relative to previous year (i.e. compared with itself rather than total of energy from all sources), for example:
[Hydro (year[n]) – Hydro (year[n-1])] / Hydro (year[n-1]).
Chart 6. World primary energy supply by share in 2017 (the share of marine energy is too small to show). Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7 This dataset is the only available that shows all energy sources.
Chart 7. World primary energy supply by share. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7
Table 1. Numerical values of world primary energy supply. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7

The share of fossil fuels reduced from 79% in 1990 to 77% in 2017, and non-hydro renewables grew to 3%. Between 2010 and 2017, just the increase of energy supplied by fossil fuels (34.5EJ) was almost double all that supplied by non-hydro renewables in 2017 (18.1EJ).

Energy from biofuels and waste consistently grew to reach 9.1% of world energy, which is a concern. In 2017, 92% of energy from biofuels and waste was supplied by solid biofuels8 (the remaining 8% was supplied by liquid biofuels, biogases and waste). Of that 92%, about half (or 4.6% of world energy supply) was supplied as dung and wood used for cooking and heating9 by about 2.5 billion people.10 11 This causes millions of deaths annually, damages health, and inhibits education and development.12 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 Biofuels).

A measure of carbonisation is the carbon intensity of primary energy supply, which is the mass of carbon dioxide emitted per Joule of supplied energy. The carbon intensity of the world’s primary energy supply in 2015 equalled that in 1995; humanity wasted two precious decades.

Chart 8. Carbon intensity of primary energy supply. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7

Energy Consumption

Chart 9. World energy consumption (Total Final Consumption, TFC), year 2017. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7
The dashed segment in the left hand most pie chart represents the equivalent share of electricity if the quantity produced in 2017 was produced within a 100% wind/water/solar (WWS) energy system, serving to demonstrate the remaining change needed for full electrification. The 20.8% in 2017 equates to 48.5% 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.13 14
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.15

Roughly two thirds of world energy was consumed directly as fossil fuels16 and two thirds of electricity was generated by fossil fuels.17

Chart 10. World energy consumption (TFC) by: (a) Energy source; (b) Economic sector. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7
Chart 11. Energy consumption (TFC) in economic sectors. Note: The transport sector includes rail and aviation. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7

The share of oil in the transport sector in 2017 was 92%, while electricity increased to reach 1%.

Electricity

Chart 12. World electricity generation by fuel type as share of total generation (i.e production). Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.7

Less detailed but more recent data from BP is shown in the following charts.

Chart 13. World electricity generation. Data: BP(2019).3 4 5
Chart 14. World electricity generation, years 2017 & 2018. Data: BP(2019).3 4 5
Chart 15. World electricity generation, years 2017 & 2018. Data: BP(2019).3 4 5
Chart 16. Changes in world electricity generation between years 2017 & 2018. Data: Calculated using BP(2019).3 4 5

The increase in fossil fuelled electricity generation was 9% greater than that from hydro and renewables combined (457 / (128 + 291) = 1.09).

  1. Global Carbon Project. (2019). Supplemental data of Global Carbon Budget 2019 (Version 1.0) [Data set]. Global Carbon Project, https://www.icos-cp.eu/GCP/2019, download labelled ‘2019 Global Budget v1.0’.()
  2. https://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/19/files/GCP_CarbonBudget_2019.pdf()
  3. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html()()()()()()()()
  4. Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Solid Biofuels & ‘Other’; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels may not be carbon-neutral.()()()()()()()()
  5. https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()()()()()()()()
  6. https://twitter.com/peters_glen/status/1149219271236415489()
  7. https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/data-tables?country=WORLD()()()()()()()()
  8. Using IEA’s 2017 biofuels and waste figures from the Renewables and Waste balances table at https://www.iea.org/statistics/, Domestic Supply row for year 2017: % = Primary_Solid_Biofuels / (Municipal_Waste + Industrial_Waste + Primary_Solid_Biofuels + Biogases + Liquid_Biofuels) ()
  9. p. 14, https://www.iea.org/reports/technology-roadmap-delivering-sustainable-bioenergy()
  10. https://books.google.com.au/books?id=AQMi_IO5N84C&lpg=PA34&dq=physical%20energy%20content%20method&pg=PA33#v=onepage&q&f=false()
  11. p. 18 https://www.iea.org/reports/technology-roadmap-delivering-sustainable-bioenergy()
  12. http://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2014/07/17/millions-die-indians-still-cook-wood-dung/()
  13. 8.7/20.3 = 42.9%, https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/TimelineDetailed.pdf()
  14. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/WorldGridIntegration.pdf()
  15. https://www.iea.org/statistics/resources/balancedefinitions/()
  16. 14.9% + 37.8% + 11% = 63.7%()
  17. 38.3% + 3.3% + 22.9% = 64.5%()