2020 A Year Like No Other, Confirms BP Statistical Review

Highlights :

  • The annual review from BP is an important marker of changes, and now, progress on energy use and production.
  • China continues to be the standout story, be it consumption, renewables growth, while India has clearly stumbled in 2020.

Acknowledging the massive disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic in 2020, the annual BP Statistical Review has called 2020 ‘a year like no other’, as it lays bare the hits and misses for the energy sector in 2020. The headline number in our view, Carbon emissions from energy use fell by 6.3%, to their lowest level since 2011. As with primary energy, this was the largest decline since the end of World War II. These falls are huge by historical standards – the largest falls in both energy demand and carbon emissions since World War II. In fact, the fall of over 2 Gt of CO2 means that carbon emissions in 2020 were back to levels last seen in 2011.

Key Developments

Primary energy consumption fell by 4.5% in 2020 – the largest decline since 1945. The drop was driven mainly by oil, which contributed almost three-quarters of the net decline, although natural gas and coal also saw significant declines.
Wind, solar and hydroelectricity all grew despite the fall in overall energy demand.

By country, the US, India and Russia contributed the largest declines in energy consumption. China posted the largest increase (2.1%), one of only a handful of countries where energy demand grew last year.

Renewables Continue To Surge

Renewable energy (including biofuels but excluding hydro) rose by 9.7%, slower than the 10-year average (13.4% p.a.) but the increment in energy terms (2.9 EJ) was similar to increases seen in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Solar capacity expanded by 127 GW, while wind capacity grew 111 GW  – almost double its previous highest annual increase.

China was the largest individual contributor to renewables growth followed by the US. Europe, as a region came in third.

Nuclear energy fell, driven by declines in the US, France and Japan.

The India story:

India offered a mixed story, of lower coal use, higher renewable capacity and generation, yet lower overall electricity consumption. While growth rate of power generation from renewable sources  fell to 8.3 percent from over 17 percent since 2009, India along with Russia and the US contributed to the biggest drops in electricity consumption.

Observations

The BP statistical review, ever since it started in 1952, has been a good market of what actually happened in the energy domain, instead of being a model used to make long term predictions. The fact that the report acknowledges the impact from covid to be far higher than estimated points to that. In the present, the sharp rebound in energy use, and pattern of consumption from fossil fuels itself points to an unfortunate result. Many of the lessons learnt in 2020 have been unlearnt equally quickly, to ‘restore’ growth. 2021 might yet see fuel use match 2019 numbers, despite the growth of renewables. The growth at all costs narrative has stopped delivering in too many situations to be considered the most optimum solution to global issues of inequality and poverty.

In future editions, it seems to predict a higher focus on progress with green hydrogen production and prices, besides a possible return to tracking nuclear power more closely, as many countries not blessed with strong solar or wind benefits, hit a wall when it comes to adding more green energy, or carbon free energy at the minimum.

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