Extreme weather drives increase in energy consumption, emissions in 2018 - BP economist

Author: Tom Brown


LONDON (ICIS)--The unexpected scale of the increase in energy demand and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2018 was a result of more extreme weather during the year, according to BP’s chief economist.

Last year recorded the fastest increase in primary energy demand growth since 2010, despite relatively modest global economic expansion over the same period, with a 2.9% uptick driving a 2% increase in emissions, according to BP’s Spencer Dale.

Totalling 0.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), the increase in emissions last year was the equivalent of the global automotive fleet increasing by 400m, and was largely driven by China, India and the US, which collectively comprised two thirds of consumption growth.

Substantial increases in energy demand from fast-growing developing economies like India and China was not a surprise, but the extent of US demand growth, representing a 3.5% increase and the fastest increase in the country in 30 years, was less expected, he added.

Analysts determined that the trend was due to a sharp uptick in hot and cold weather in the country, leading to more heating and cooling days since the 1950s.

Upticks on heating and air conditioning usage in China and Russia also drove the increase, he added.

The increase in emissions – 1.4 percentage points above the historical average – was strongly linked to demand levels, which were 1.5 percentage points above average during the year, he said, but this also indicates that the energy mix is not decarbonising.

With coal consumption increasing for the second consecutive year after several years where demand fell, governments have yet to make the leaps necessary to transition to a lower carbon economy, representing a “mismatch between hopes and reality” , he added.

While shifts in future weather patterns are far from certain, the drastic increase in heating and cooling days during 2018 raises the possibility of a vicious cycle.

Carbon accumulating in the atmosphere could drive an increase in extreme weather, necessitating higher emissions to cope with that, which could in turn result in more extreme weather, Dale said.