Despite the avalanche of good news about the rise of renewable energy, global fossil fuel consumption has grown 2.4 times faster than renewables over the last decade, analyst Barry Saxifrage reports, based on data from BP’s latest Statistical Review of World Energy.
The “climate-sobering fossil fuel side of this story” shows fossil energy continuing to increase rapidly between 2009 and 2016 and supplying 85% of global energy demand, with oil and gas expanding faster than any other energy source, he writes.
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Saxifrage created a chart that shows global energy demand growing by the equivalent of 1,675 million tonnes of oil over the seven-year span, beginning with a 570-million-tonne surge between 2009 and 2010. Renewable energy production grew by the equivalent of 475 million tonnes, or just 300 million excluding large hydro.
“The expansion of renewables over the last seven years isn’t enough to cover even the single-year demand surge of 2010,” he writes. “Sure, that was a big year for demand, as the world emerged from a global recession. But those last seven years have also been the all-time biggest years ever for renewable energy.”
And “the situation looks even worse if you don’t like the idea of relying on expanding hydropower dams. That’s because hydropower expanded more than any other renewable over those years.”
The result: Fossil fuel use growing at 2.4 times the pace of renewable energy consumption. “Instead of prioritizing climate-safe renewables, humanity met most of the rising energy demand by burning ever more fossil carbon,” Saxifrage concludes. “When people have wanted more energy, they have mostly decided to burn more fossil carbon, not install more renewables.”
While declaring himself a “huge fan of renewables”, Saxifrage cautions against “cherry-picking climate hope” when the comparative data still tell a very different story. “It’s tempting, for sure, but can distract from what actually determines our climate fate: how much fossil fuel we burn,” he notes. Critical and necessary as they are to a post-carbon future, “renewables aren’t the metric that will determine our climate future. Renewables can—and currently are—prospering, even as fossil fuels expand and we accelerate into the climate crisis.”
Follow/contribute to a vibrant discussion of Barry’s article, including comments by Barry himself, here: https://scncc.net/threads/stop-cherry-picking-climate-hope-fossil-fuel-expansion-crushes-renewables.116/
Thank you for the link!
This story would be more accurate and useful if it gave us the trend lines over the past seven years, rather than just the totals for the seven years of data, especially since they’re skewed by the atypical demand in 2010. A lot has changed since 2010 so, while we’re still clearly meeting far too much energy demand with fossil fuels, this article fails to give us any idea of the rate at which energy demand is rising, nor the rate at which that demand is being filled by renewables relative to fossil fuels.
Demand rose the equivalent of 250 million tonnes of oil between 2010 and 2011. About 16% of that demand was met by renewables.
Demand only rose the equivalent of 175 million tonnes of oil between 2015 and 2016. About 43% of that demand was met by renewables.
Over a five year period, the annual rate of demand fell by 30%, and the percentage of that demand met by renewables increased 270%. They supplied almost half the new demand for energy that year.
In sharp contrast to the slant of this story, this gives us a lot of reason to be hopeful about where we’ll be in another five years.
Interesting analysis, thanks. Please have a look at Brad’s comment on this article — he points to an online discussion where you might want to weigh in.