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IEA: Global energy demand rose by 2.3% in 2018, its fastest pace in the last decade

26 March 2019

Energy demand worldwide grew by 2.3% last year, its fastest pace this decade, according to the Global Energy & CO2 Status Report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Natural gas emerged as the fuel of choice, posting the biggest gains and accounting for 45% of the rise in energy consumption. Gas demand growth was especially strong in the United States and China.

Demand for all fuels increased, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70% of the growth for the second year running. Solar and wind generation grew at double-digit pace. This growth, however, was from a small base; in absolute numbers, the global primary energy supply from solar and wind—included under ‘other renewables’ in Table 1—still remains insignificant. The growth of renewable energy in 2018 was not sufficient to meet higher electricity demand around the world and to offset the rising use of coal.

Table 1
Global primary energy demand (Source: IEA)
Energy Demand, MtoeGrowth RateShares
Total Primary Energy Demand14,3012.3%100%100%
Biomass and waste1,4182.5%10%10%
Other renewables28914.0%1%2%
Table 2
Global electricity generation (Source: IEA)
Electricity Generation, TWhGrowth RateShares
Total Generation26,6724.0%100%100%
Biomass and waste6697.4%1%3%
Solar photovoltaics57031.2%0%2%
Other renewables1444.2%0%1%

As a result, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7% to 33 Gt in 2018. Coal use in power generation alone surpassed 10 Gt, accounting for a third of the total increase. Most of that came from a young fleet of coal power plants in developing Asia. The majority of coal-fired generation capacity today is found in Asia, with 12-year-old plants on average, decades short of average lifetimes of around 50 years.

Global electricity demand grew by 4% in 2018, reaching more than 26,000 TWh. This rapid growth is pushing electricity towards a 20% share in total final consumption of energy. Increasing power generation was responsible for half of the growth in primary energy demand.

Renewables were a major contributor to this power generation expansion, accounting for nearly half of electricity demand growth. China remained the leader in renewables, both for wind and solar, followed by Europe and the United States.

Energy intensity of the world GDP improved by 1.3% last year, just half the rate of the period between 2014-2016. This third consecutive year of slowdown was the result of weaker energy efficiency policy implementation and strong demand growth in more energy intensive economies.

Almost a fifth of the increase in global energy demand came from higher demand for heating and cooling as average winter and summer temperatures in some regions approached or exceeded historical records. Cold snaps drove demand for heating and, more significantly, hotter summer temperatures pushed up demand for cooling.

Together, China, the United States, and India accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand around the world. The United States saw the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide. Its gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971. The annual increase in US demand last year was equivalent to the United Kingdom’s current gas consumption.

Source: International Energy Agency