Tuesday , 21 May 2024

Energy Usage Patterns Around the World

This article is a summary of some of the patterns that have emerged from the just released 2021 BP Statistical Review of World Energy Report. 

Here’s an introductory comment by chief executive officer Bernard Looney:

  • “Global energy demand is estimated to have fallen by 4.5% in 2020. This is the largest recession since the end of World War II, driven by an unprecedented collapse in oil demand (oil consumption accounted for around three-quarters of the total decline in energy demand), as the imposition of lockdowns around the world decimated transport-related demand.
  • The fall in carbon emissions from energy use was equally striking, with emissions falling by over 6% in 2020 – again, the largest decline since 1945. Although unmatched in modern peacetime, the rate of decline in carbon emissions last year is similar to what the world needs to average each year for the next 30 years to be on track to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement.”

Primary Energy Usage By Type

[Below is]…a figure showing sources of “primary energy” for the world as a whole [which] includes all commercially traded sources of energy…[used in] transportation, commerce, industry, and homes.

As the report summarizes, this figure:

  • “Oil continues to hold the largest share of the energy mix (31.2%).
  • Coal is the second largest fuel in 2020, accounting for 27.2% of total primary energy consumption, a slight increase from 27.1% in the previous year.
  • The share of both natural gas and renewables rose to record highs of 24.7% and 5.7% respectively.
  • Renewables has now overtaken nuclear which makes up only 4.3% of the energy mix.
  • Hydro’s share of energy increased by 0.4 percentage points last year to 6.9%, the first increase since 2014.”

I’d put it another way: there are three big energy sources each with about 25-30% of the global market, and they are all fossil fuels: oil, coal, and natural gas. There are three much smaller energy sources, all carbon-free but each with well under than 10% of the global market: hydroelectricity, nuclear, and renewables (like solar, wind, and geothermal).

Energy Consumption Per Capita By Region

….[Below] is a figure showing energy consumption per capita by region of the world.

  • For the world as a whole (gray line), energy use is 71 gigajoules per person.
  • For North America, it’s about three times as much;
  • for Europe, the Middle East, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (mainly Russia) it’s twice as much.
  • Other regions are still below the global average.

Distribution of Energy Use Per Capita Across Countries

This figure [below] shows the distribution of energy use per capita across countries. It’s a cumulative distribution: thus, the green line for 2018 is lower at the bottom left of the figure and higher at the top right, showing that a smaller share of the world population is in countries with very low energy consumption. The big vertical jump in the middle of the green line is the population of China. As the report notes:

  • “In 2020 63.7% of the global population lived in countries where average energy demand per capita was less than 100 GJ/head, a significant decrease from 81% in 2019, as energy demand per capita in China increased to 101 GJ/head from 99 GJ/head in 2019.”

As the figure shows, about 80% of the global population consumes 100 gigajoules per person or less, while the top few percent of the global population consume three times that much energy.

Global Carbon Emissions By Country or Region

In terms of global carbon emissions, about one-third of all the emissions are from high-income countries, and two-thirds from low-income countries…[Below] is a table that I condensed from a larger table in the report.

  • The U.S. accounts for 13.8% of global carbon emissions…[which] have been falling 0.5% per year for the decade up to 2019, with a bigger fall during the pandemic.
  • Carbon emissions for Europe are similar, although they have been declining about twice as fast.
  • However, the Asia/Pacific region accounts for more than half of all global carbon emissions, and before the pandemic carbon emissions from this region were growing at 2.6% per year over the decade up to 2019. China alone is 30.7% of global carbon emissions.


In short, no plan for reducing global carbon emissions can be considered serious if it:

  • doesn’t have a heavy focus on the Asia/Pacific region and on China showing how total energy consumption can rise dramatically there…while still putting carbon emissions on a downward trajectory.
Editor’s Note:  The above version of the original article by Timothy Taylor, has been edited ([ ]) and abridged (…) for the sake of clarity and brevity to ensure a fast and easy read.  The author’s views and conclusions are unaltered and no personal comments have been included to maintain the integrity of the original article.  Furthermore, the views, conclusions and any recommendations offered in this article are not to be construed as an endorsement of such by the editor. Also note that this complete paragraph must be included in any re-posting to avoid copyright infringement.

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