A large, annual data set curated by the oil and gas giant BP is released every single year, and it’s an awkward moment for energy nerds. The data is detailed, informative and unmatched elsewhere, but, you know. It’s BP.
Keeping that source in mind, it is still a fascinating insight into some emerging trends. Global emissions grew 0.5% – not good, but pointedly smaller than the average growth of 1.1% over the past ten years.
Coal’s share in primary energy dropped down to what BP says is its lowest level in 16 years. Australia was a ‘key contributor’ to the growth in gas production (23 of a total of 132 billion cubic metres of growth from 2018 to 2019), and is third in the list of countries growing gas exports (behind Russia and the US). Australia was also fifth in the list of increases in oil production, at 135 barrels per day growth.
In general: coal is growing stagnant, and in many cases beginning to fall. But gas is booming, threatening to slow emissions reductions, and Australia is playing a key role in that. Beyond the report, the data cubes themselves hold some interesting insights. Let’s dig into them.
1 – Australia has pretty good renewable growth, but it isn’t at the top of the world
For a short while, all you ever heard from Australia’s formerly renewable-energy-hating politicians was how Australia was ‘leading the world’ in terms of renewable energy ‘per capita‘. It wasn’t quite right, but it’s also correct to say Australia’s renewable energy installations are far higher than the global average. This is borne out by BP’s data, when you look not at installations but output:
2 – Australia is also leading the world on coal for producing electricity
This is slightly more straightforward. Australia comes in a health fifth based on 2019 data, in terms of terawattt hours generated per one million people. That’s because Australia has struggled to upgrade its electricity generation industry. It’s a bad look.
3 – Growth in zero carbon energy comes from renewables, but there’s still some way to go
Looking at the world as a whole, the dataset neatly outlines the total power generation from zero carbon sources. Much of the growth in recent years has come from wind and solar, but these technologies are still dwarfed by the world’s hydro and nuclear generation. That isn’t a bad thing; it simply means there’s still a lot more growing to do, and hopefully this trend continues past the COVID19 pandemic
4 – Australia’s also a global leader in digging up coal
Poor old mining – so often forgotten in these charts. As you might expect, Australia is also a global leader. In the 2010s, it was third in the whole world by the quantity of coal produced within the country. That’s not the same as burning that coal, but it’s still a significant act in terms of global emissions. The United Nation’s Production Gap report highlights the fact that the extraction of fossil fuels needs to stop, as well as the burning of them. Australia’s going to have a reckoning about this in the coming years, and it’s not going to be pretty as it gets knocked off this high perch: