Energy Business Review lists the world’s most used energy sources based on the share of each source to global energy consumption in the past five decades according to BP’s estimates.
Oil has been historically the world’s most used energy source accounting for approximately 39% of the global energy consumption. Photo: courtesy of ArionEstar.
Oil – 39%
Accounting for approximately 39% of the global energy consumption, oil has historically been the world’s most used energy source. Despite a decline over the past two decades, the demand for oil has remained high principally due to demand from emerging economies, especially non-OECD countries.
Oil consumption in 2014 grew by 0.8% over 2013, marking the highest growth among all fossil fuel types. The US has been the biggest oil consumer for the past two decades followed by China, which has been consuming increasingly more oil, especially gasoline. Demand for middle distillates has been sluggish in the recent years due to weaker diesel demand caused by poor economic growth, whereas light distillates demand is on the rise.
Coal – 28%
Coal has also been one of the fastest growing fossil fuels owing to China’s rapid industrialisation. Coal consumption in the last ten years has grown at 2.9% on an average, but its share in global energy consumption has been on the decline although last year was an exception with 0.4% rise.
The fall in coal consumption is attributed to a demand shift in China, which has been the leading coal consumer. Coal usage in China is being replaced by more favourable fuels, while its value in the power sector has been down as a result of strong growth in hydropower installations. India recorded the world’s biggest volumetric increase of 11.1% in coal consumption (360.2Mtoe) in 2014.
Gas consumption grew at an average rate of 2.4% in the last ten years. Photo: courtesy of Rickz.
Gas – 22%
Gas consumption grew at an average rate of 2.4% in the last ten years. Demand for gas is primarily linked to temperature variations and, in recent years, its consumption has been affected by weak demand in Europe due to mild winters.
Gas has also lost its share in the power sector where fossil fuels are still the preferred option. Europe recorded its biggest volumetric and percentage decline of 11.6% in gas consumption in 2014. The continent, however, still continues to be the leading natural gas consumer followed by North America since the past decade.
Hydroelectricity – 6%
Hydroelectricity is a fast growing energy source with a global share of more than 6%, while its 10-year average growth rate is 3.3%. Hydroelectricity consumption has been steadily on the rise with Asia Pacific accounting for a major share. Consumption in China, which is home to the world’s biggest hydropower plant, the Three Gorges Dam, grew by 15.7% year-on-year in 2014.
The upward trend witnessed in the hydroelectric power consumption is a result of a number of factors including its relatively low cost per unit.
Nuclear energy output and consumption are still in the recovery phase after the Fukushima incident. Photo: courtesy Wizkid.
Nuclear energy – 4.4%
Nuclear energy consumption has grown over the past couple of years and has recently crossed its 10-year average annual decline of 0.8%. Nuclear energy output and consumption are still in the recovery phase after the Fukushima incident, with production still being 10% below the 2006 peak. For the first time since 2009, nuclear energy seems to be gaining its global market share with a growth of 1.8% being registered in 2014.
The US has been the leading nuclear energy consumer for the past two decades, followed by France. Japan recently witnessed a complete halt in its nuclear power generation and consumption as its last operating reactor was shut down in 2013. The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant that was brought back online in August 2015 is Japan’s only operating nuclear power plant.
Wind – 0.22%
Wind, which contributes approximately 3% to the global electricity generation, has witnessed a double digit growth in consumption, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 23.5% in the recent decade. Wind usage last year, however, grew at a below-average rate of 10.2% compared to 10-year average, due to reduced public policy support in Europe and the US.
Germany was the leading consumer of wind energy until 2007 when it was overtaken by the US as the world’s biggest wind power producer as well as consumer. Wind is also becoming increasingly popular in Asian countries with Asia Pacific overtaking European and Eurasian countries in gross installed capacity for the first time in 2014. Challenges to the growth of wind usage as an energy source are principally from the low utilisation factor and the need for higher government support.
Geothermal energy is used significantly in certain countries including the US, Kenya, Iceland, El Salvador and New Zealand. Photo: courtesy Asgegg.
Geothermal, biomass & waste – 0.4%
Total consumption of geothermal, biomass and waste in the last five decades was more than 1.6 billion tonne of oil equivalent making them a growing segment of renewable energy. Geothermal is well-established and relatively more mature among the three sources.
Geothermal energy is used significantly in countries including the US, Kenya, Iceland, El Salvador and New Zealand. Its overall share in global power generation is, however, very low at 0.3% as it is concentrated in a few places. The US has been the leading consumer of geothermal power for the past few decades.
Solar – 0.03%
Solar power has been fast gaining ground as a preferred energy source, with installed capacities having more than quadrupled in the past four years. Solar energy’s share in global power generation has doubled in recent years and currently stands at approximately 0.8%.
Solar contributed approximately 15% to the growth of global power in 2014. Germany has been the leader in solar power usage since 2005, while Asia Pacific has also been recording strong growth owing to developments in China and Japan.