Global consumption of primary energy has grown by 30% over the past decade. But almost all of that growth has come outside the rich world. In four of the past five years energy demand has fallen in the OECD, despite GDP growth in three of those years. Last year was no exception, according to BP’s 2013 “Statistical Review”: energy consumption fell by 1.2% even as OECD economies expanded by 1.4%. In the developing world the link between economic growth and energy demand endures. But oil consumption peaked in the OECD in 2005. Demography and vehicle efficiency mean it is now in structural decline. It is possible—though BP reckons it is too early to tell—that rich-world energy demand has peaked too.
The above article in The Economist makes some interesting points about changing world energy demand.
Some definitions before we go further:
1. Primary Energy consumption refers to “the direct use at the source, or supply to users without transformation, of crude energy, that is, energy that has not been subjected to any conversion or transformation process” (source: http://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=2112).
2. OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, was established in 1960 and includes many ‘first-world’ countries (source: http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/).
The original information comes from BP and is, naturally, primarily interested in oil consumption. However:
Is decreasing demand in the developed world a reflection of increasing energy costs and reduced disposable income, or is it more a result of increasing energy efficiencies in buildings and transport?
What about the UK?
The above official information published by the UK government shows the changing pattern of energy production and demand over the last thirty years and also shows the recent trend in the last few years – the report goes on to say:
Primary energy consumption was 6.9% lower in 2011 than in 2010. Consumption fell as a result of the milder weather where the average daily temperature was 10.70C, 1.80C warmer than in 2010. On a temperature corrected basis, primary energy consumption was 1.7% lower than in 2010, continuing the general fall seen since 2005. In the last 30 years consumption of natural gas and primary electricity has risen considerably, whilst consumption of oil and coal have fallen.
Energy consumption in transport is actually largely flat so perhaps increases in areas like air travel is being countered by the improved energy efficiency of newer vehicles (and planes)? Domestically, energy consumption seems to be dropping notably, which for a number of reasons seems to be good all round.
A fascinating (and mesmerising) snapshot of 2011 Primary Energy consumption in the UK shows this (click image for a bigger version):
This table shows the changing size and proportions of low carbon sources from 2000 to 2011. Nuclear clearly forms the largest proportion of low carbon energy supply compared to renewable primary energy sources. In terms of electricity generation from renewable sources, UK production has increased from 5.8TWh in 1990 to 34.4TWh in 2011. Although it was a relatively windy year (and this significantly effects generation) wind power was responsible for about 46% of renewable generation in 2011, significantly up from the year before (an increase of ~56%). Notably, the proportion of offshore wind compared to onshore wind is rising rapidly and now stands at a ratio of nearly 1:2 in 2011 (compared to 1:4.5 in 2009).
In summary, the figure of 12% of total primary energy supplied from low carbon sources in the UK is way below the European average of 21%.
The government report itself notes on renewables:
In March 2007, the European Council agreed to a common strategy for energy security and tackling climate change. An element of this was establishing a target of 20% of the EU’s energy to come from renewable sources. In 2009 a new Renewable Energy Directive was implemented on this basis and resulted in agreement of country “shares” of this target. For the UK, by 2020, 15% of final energy consumption – calculated on a net calorific basis, and with a cap on fuel used for air transport – should be accounted for by energy from renewable sources. Provisionally in the UK during 2011, 3.8% of final energy consumption was from renewable sources; this is up from 3.2% in 2010.