2015 in review: Growth in global primary energy consumption remained low in 2015; and the fuel mix shifted away from coal towards lower-carbon fuels
Global primary energy consumption increased by just 1.0% in 2015, similar to the below-average growth recorded in 2014 (+1.1%) and well below its 10-year average of 1.9%. Other than the recession of 2009, this represented the lowest global growth since 1998. Consumption growth was below the 10-year average for all regions except Europe & Eurasia; emerging economies accounted for 97% of the increase in global consumption. OECD consumption experienced a small increase, with growth in Europe offsetting declines in the US and Japan. Chinese consumption slowed further, but still recorded the world’s largest increment in primary energy consumption for the fifteenth consecutive year. Russia recorded the largest volumetric decline in primary energy consumption. By fuel, only oil and nuclear power grew at above-average rates, with oil gaining global market share for the first time since 1999. Renewables in power generation continued to grow robustly, to nearly 3% of global primary energy consumption, while coal consumption recorded the largest percentage decline on record. Global CO₂ emissions from energy are estimated to have been essentially flat.
Prices for all fossil fuels fell in 2015 for all regions. Crude oil prices recorded the largest decline on record in dollar terms, and the largest percentage decline since 1986. The annual average price for Brent, the international crude oil benchmark, declined by 47%, reflecting a growing imbalance between global production and consumption. The differential between Brent and the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) narrowed to its smallest level since 2010. Natural gas prices fell in all regions, with the largest percentage declines in North America; the US benchmark Henry Hub fell to its lowest level since 1999. Coal prices around the world fell for the fourth consecutive year.
Oil remained the world’s leading fuel, accounting for 32.9% of global energy consumption. Although emerging economies continued to dominate the growth in global energy consumption, growth in these countries (+1.6%) was well below its 10-year average of 3.8%.
Emerging economies now account for 58.1% of global energy consumption. Chinese consumption growth slowed to just 1.5%, while India (+5.2%) recorded another robust increase in consumption. OECD consumption increased slightly (+0.1%), compared with an average annual decline of 0.3% over the past decade. A rare increase in EU consumption (+1.6%) more than offset declines in the US (-0.9%) and Japan (-1.2%), where consumption fell to the lowest level since 1991.