Renewables Catching Nuclear Power In Global Energy Race

This article is the fifth in a series on BP’s recently-released Statistical Review of World Energy 2019. Previous articles in this series covered carbon dioxide emissions, petroleum supply and demand, the production and consumption of coal, and global natural gas trends:

Today, I want to cover global trends in renewable energy.

Renewables

The Review separates renewables into two categories called Hydroelectric and Renewables. The former consists of hydropower, which has been around for a long time. Hydropower still produces more electricity globally than the Renewables category, which consists primarily of rapidly-growing wind and solar power, as well as more mature renewable technologies like geothermal power and power produced from biomass.

To put these numbers in perspective, the following graphic shows the global percentage each of the major power sources contributed to electricity generation in 2018:

Global share of electricity production.

 

Coal is still the dominant source of electricity around the world, although natural gas has taken over the top spot in the U.S. But, renewables have grown rapidly over the past decade, and are on the cusp of overtaking nuclear globally.

In 2018, nuclear power was responsible for 2,701 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity generation, compared to 4,193 TWh for hydropower and 2,480 for renewables. In comparison, coal produced more power than all three categories combined.

However, the growth rates of the different categories of electricity generation tell a different story. Over the past decade, from 2007 to 2017, global electricity generated by coal grew at an annual average of 1.7%. Nuclear generation over that time actually declined annually by 0.4%, a consequence of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. Hydropower generation grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%. These growth rates are indicative of mature power sources.

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