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Carbon emissions reached 33.1 gigatons last year, breaking their previous record even though the annual increase was relatively modest, at 1.7 percent, the International Energy Agency said in its new Global Energy & CO2 Status Report.
The disheartening increase that came amid an even stronger push towards a shift from fossil fuels to renewables came on the back of new addition to the coal plant capacity of developing countries in Asia. This growth resulted in coal accounting for 30 percent of all energy-related CO2 emissions last year. What’s more, the new coal power plant additions in Asia more than offset plant closures in other parts of the world.
Despite the somewhat depressing data, which should not have come as a surprise in any case, there was some good news as well. Energy demand rose by 2.3 percent last year, which was almost double the average annual growth rate for the period since 2010, the IEA, noted, but most of that higher demand was satisfied with energy sources cleaner than coal and oil.
Gas was the fastest-growing growing energy source in 2018, accounting for almost 45 percent of the increased energy demand. Oil demand also increased, but not so impressively. Together, fossil fuels covered some 70 percent of the higher energy demand.
Meanwhile, renewables adoption grew by a double-digit rate, which was certainly encouraging. Unfortunately, this rate of growth in new renewable installations could not keep up with the pace of rising energy demand. Still, solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources covered 25 percent of primary energy demand last year. This was thanks to more renewable power generation additions: in power generation, renewables accounted for 45 percent of demand growth in 2018.
The IEA noted that electricity is turning into “the fuel of the future”, which will likely drive further renewable energy adoption in the years to come. Still, demand for fossil fuels will remain, with gas leading the way as the cleanest of the fossil fuels.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.