The BP Statistical Review of World Energy analyses global energy market data for 2021 and shows that energy demand rebounded to roughly pre-pandemic levels, thus reversing the temporary decline in 2020 caused by the COVID-19. Moreover, the drastic drop in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 was unfortunately a short-lived and temporary phenomenon, due entirely to pandemic constraints. The experts emphasize that the challenges and uncertainties facing the global energy system are at their highest level in almost 50 years, not least because of Russia's aggression against Ukraine and its impact on the global energy market.
According to the report, global primary energy increased by nearly 6% in 2021, exceeding even 2019 levels by 1.3%. This increase was driven by renewable energy sources and by emerging economies, which increased by 13 Exajoules (EJ), with China growing by 10 EJ. Fossil fuel energy consumption was essentially unchanged from 2019 to 2021, with a decrease in oil demand (-8 EJ) balanced by increases in natural gas (5 EJ) and coal (3 EJ). Fossil fuels accounted for 82% of primary energy use, down from 83% in 2019 and from 85% in 2016.
The report provides the following key findings on individual energy sources:
Oil. In 2021, oil consumption increased by 5.3 million barrels per day (b/d), but remained 3.7 million b/d below 2019 levels. The main growth occurred in the U.S. (1.5 million b/d), China (1.3 million b/d), and the EU (570,000 b/d). In 2021, aviation-related oil demand remained 33% below 2019 levels. Average oil prices were $70.91 per barrel, the second highest level since 2015.
Natural gas. Global demand for natural gas also recovered and grew by 5.3% in 2021. Its share of primary energy in 2021 was at 24%, unchanged from the previous year. China has overtaken Japan as the world's largest LNG importer, accounting for nearly 60% of global LNG demand growth in 2021. In 2021, natural gas prices increased significantly, rising to record annual levels.
Coal. Consumption rose more than 6% to 160 EJ in 2021, above the highest level since 2014, with China and India accounting for more than 70% of the increase in coal demand. It is notable that after nearly 10 years of consecutive declines, both Europe and North America showed an increase in coal consumption in 2021. Coal prices rose sharply, averaging $121/t in Europe and $145/t in Asia, the highest since 2008.
Renewables. Renewable energy (excluding hydro), led by wind and solar power, increased by around 5.1 EJ in 2021 and now accounts for 13% of total power generation. China remained the main driver of solar and wind capacity growth last year, accounting for about 36% and 40% of the global capacity additions, respectively.
Nuclear. Nuclear generation increased by 4.2% – the strongest increase since 2004 – led by China.
The BP report also provides data on electricity generation, which grew by 6.2% in 2021. The share of wind and solar energy in power production reached 10.2%, exceeding the contribution of nuclear power for the first time. Coal remained the dominant fuel for electricity generation in 2021, with its share rising to 36%. Natural gas's share increased by 2.6% in 2021, although its share declined from 23.7% in 2020 to 22.9% in 2021.
Hydro. Hydroelectricity generation decreased by around 1.4% in 2021, the first fall since 2015.