Global energy demand has spiked by 2.3% last year, driven by robust global economic growth and strong heating and cooling needs around the world, according to a new report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Natural gas emerged as the fuel of choice, accounting for 45% for the rise in energy consumption, with strongest demand in the United States and China.
While solar and other renewables accounted for more energy production than ever before, fossil fuel demand rose strongly in 2018.
As a result, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7%, to 33 gigatonnes in 2018, with coal use along accounting for 10Gt of that.
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.
According to the report, electricity continues to position itself as the “fuel of the future”, with global electricity demand surging by 4% last year to over 23,000 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.
“We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.
“Last year can also be considered another golden year for gas, which accounted for almost half the growth in global energy demand. But despite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts”
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.