Renewable energy sources have gained ground • Troy Media

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By Jock Finlayson
and Denise Mullen

We live in extraordinary times in the evolution of international energy markets. Amid the turmoil and trade disruption caused by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, energy reliability and security issues have suddenly resurfaced with a vengeance. And higher war-related energy costs are hitting consumers and businesses around the world.

Jock Finlayson

Denis Mullen
Denis Mullen

Despite widespread concerns about climate change and a growing collective commitment to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG emissions), four-fifths of global energy demand is still met by a combination of coal, oil and natural gas , according to the latest edition of BP’s Annual World Energy Statistical Review.

The report from BP – a respected source of data on all energy matters – shows that total global energy consumption and associated GHG emissions declined at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in the first half of 2020. However, as economic activity picked up, so did the appetite for energy. In 2021, as economies rebounded from the temporary crisis of 2020, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions increased, soon topping 2019 levels. As expected, fossil fuels provided the bulk additional energy needed to lubricate the resumption of employment, travel and industrial production.

So how much energy did the world consume in 2021? The answer is 595 exojoules (EJ), or 97 billion barrels of oil. This is 6% more than in 2020 and 1.3% more than in 2019. Since 2015, when the international Paris Agreement on climate change was signed, global energy consumption has increased by about 7%.

When looking at the pattern of energy demand for different types of fuels, the good news is that renewable energy sources have been gaining ground. From 2015 to 2021, there has been an approximately 4% shift towards non-nuclear and non-hydro renewables in the overall global energy mix. However, these carbon-free energy sources still meet only 7% of global energy demand. It is important to note that the progress of renewables is occurring almost exclusively in one sector, electricity generation, which alone accounts for only one-fifth of the primary energy used in the world. The rest of the world’s energy demand is for things like transportation, heating buildings, agricultural production, and various industrial processes.

Clearly, the timetable for reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions set by politicians and governments has no relation to production and use data and trends. Energy. Politicians talk of a rapid and largely painless transition to a low-carbon future, but that won’t happen – at least not without the arrival and rapid adoption of multiple disruptive technologies.

On a more positive note, energy consumption per capita and per dollar of economic output continues to decline. This means the world is becoming more energy efficient, even as fossil fuels continue to serve as the backbone of the energy system.

We believe that in 2022, global energy consumption will be somewhat higher than in 2021, even with the recent inflationary pressures and other extraordinary events that have rocked the international economy in recent months. The pace of the low-carbon transition touted by many politicians could slow due to fallout from the Russian-Ukrainian war and growing fears over energy security, particularly in Europe and China – where coal use is on the rise. to increase.

What awaits us in 2030 and 2050 – in eight and 28 years respectively? There is no indication that the global need for highly concentrated energy flows is diminishing. This points to continued strong demand for fossil fuels, even as policymakers, investors and civil society groups pursue a low-carbon future. History and scholarship teach that energy transitions take a long time, far longer than the dates proposed by politicians rushing to solve the problem of climate change. We remain skeptical that the world is on the verge of a profound and rapid change in the composition of energy production and consumption. Data from BP’s latest report confirms that this skepticism is well founded.

Jock Finlayson is Senior Policy Advisor to the Business Council of BC Denise Mullen is the Council’s Director of Environment and Sustainability.

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