World Energy Consumption, 1965-2020

World Energy Consumption, 1965-2018

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Population data from World Bank.

Global energy consumption patterns reveal that the world remains highly dependent on fossil fuels. Over the last 50 years, while energy consumption grew substantially, the world undertook a transition in its usage of fossil fuels, from solids (coal) to liquids (oil) to gases (natural gas). While coal accounted for 39% of all energy consumption in 1965, this share declined to 27% in 2020. Meanwhile, the share of oil declined as well, from 40% of energy consumption in 1965 to 31% in 2020. Natural gas is the only fossil fuel that experienced a growth in its share, from 15% in 1965 to 25% in 2020.

Of note is the recent growth of the share of renewables to above 5% of all energy consumption as of 2020. Still, this share remains marginal but illustrates the potential for more diversified and sustainable energy systems. The expectations about alternative sources of energy and decarbonization have to remain tempered by the massive role fossil fuels still play, the accumulation of related infrastructures, and the substantial capabilities that will need to be developed for a transition to take place. On a per-capita basis, the level of energy consumption has been declining since the early 1970s, when the price of oil increased rapidly, leading to fuel economy initiatives. From the 1980s to the 2000s, consumption per capita stabilized as energy consumption in developing economies expanded. Then, from the 2000s, consumption per capita embarked on a downward trend, indicative of technological improvements in energy efficiency.