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BP Statistical Review shows declining energy demand and carbon emissions in 2020

13 July 2021

BP released the Statistical Review of World Energy 2021—the 70th edition of the annual report—which collects energy data through 2020 and shows that the Covid-19 crisis had a dramatic impact on energy markets, with both primary energy and carbon emissions falling at their fastest rates since 1945.

Primary energy consumption fell by 4.5% in 2020, the first decline since 2009 during the financial crisis and the largest annual decline since 1945. This fall was driven mainly by oil, which accounted for almost three quarters of the net decline. By country, the USA, India and Russia saw the largest declines in energy consumption. China saw the largest increase (2.1%)—one of only a handful of countries where energy demand grew last year.

Carbon emissions from energy use fell by over 6% in 2020, to their lowest level since 2011. As with primary ‎energy, this was the largest decline since 1945.

Oil consumption dropped for the first time since 2009 by 9.3% (-9.1 million b/d). The largest falls were seen in the USA (-2.3 million b/d), the EU (-1.5 million b/d) and India (-480,000 b/d). China was virtually the only country where consumption increased (220,000 b/d). World oil production also fell for the first time since 2009, by 6.6 million b/d.

Natural gas consumption decreased by 2.3%, similar to the fall in 2009. Despite the reduction in absolute levels of demand, the share of gas in primary energy continued ‎to rise, reaching a record high of 24.7%. Gas consumption ‎fell in most regions – in North America and Europe by 2.6% and 2.5% respectively. Notable exceptions ‎to this trend were China, where demand grew by 6.9%, and Iran.‎

Coal consumption fell by 6.2 EJ, or 4.2%—its fourth decline in six years—led by ‎declines in the USA (-2.1 EJ) and India (-1.1 EJ). China and Malaysia were notable exceptions, increasing their coal consumption by 0.5 EJ and 0.2 EJ ‎respectively. Global coal production was down 8.3 EJ (5.2%)‎.

Electricity generation fell by 0.9%, more than the decline in 2009 (-0.5%). Wind, solar and hydroelectricity generation all grew despite the fall in overall electricity demand. The share of renewables in power generation increased from 10.3% to 11.7%, while coal’s share fell 1.3 percentage points to 35.1%—a new low in BP’s data series.

Wind and solar capacity increased by a colossal 238 GW in 2020–50% larger than at any time in history. However, as this increase is from a low base and the capacity utilization of wind and solar is small compared to fossil fuel or nuclear power generation, renewable energy still plays a very limited role in the global energy consumption, Figure 1.

Figure 1. World primary energy consumption by source

Renewables include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and other

(Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021)

The global economy consumed 556 EJ of primary energy in 2020. Solar generation contributed 7.60 EJ or 1.37% of this total, while wind energy contributed 14.13 EJ or 2.52%, according to BP data.

Other interesting findings from the BP Statistical Review 2021 include:

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy