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REN21: Energy dominance of fossil fuels not affected by renewables

21 June 2021

While the use of renewable energy has increased, fossil fuels remain a dominant source of energy for the world, according to the Renewables 2021 Global Status Report by REN21, a global renewable energy policy group based in Paris.

Renewables grew almost 5% per year between 2009 and 2019, outpacing fossil fuels (1.7%). But in absolute terms, the consumption of fossil fuels increased much more than renewable energy—the world is now burning more fossil fuels than ever. As seen in the graph below, the share of fossil fuels in the total energy mix is as high as a decade ago and the renewable energy share only increased slightly.

Renewable share of total final energy consumption

(Source: REN21; based on IEA data)

The share of fossil fuels in global energy consumption has dropped over the past decade by only 0.1 percentage point, from an 80.3% share in 2009 to 80.2% in 2019. Coal, oil, and natural gas satisfied some 75% of the global energy demand growth over the decade.

Energy statistics, by REN21 and others, put a reality check on the concept of energy transition. Contrary to the popular perception reinforced by media, renewable energy such as wind and solar power has not yet replaced any fossil fuel energy. So far, renewables have been an add-on, complementing (rather than replacing) the growing fossil fuel based economy.

The REN21 report also found that the ‘green economic recovery’ packages adopted by governments in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis tend to stimulate ‘brown economy’ rather than renewables. Instead of driving transformation, recovery packages have provided six times more investment to fossil fuels than to renewable energy.

Source: REN21