While global coal consumption did decline by 1% in 2015, the world set new consumption records for petroleum and natural gas.
The net impact was a total increase in the world’s fossil fuel consumption of about 0.6%.
That may not seem like much, but the net increase in fossil fuel consumption — the equivalent of 127 million metric tons of petroleum — was 2.6 times the overall increase in the consumption of renewables (48 million metric tons of oil equivalent).
As a result, despite the record increase in renewable consumption, global carbon dioxide emissions once again set a new all-time record high. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2015 were 36 million metric tons higher than in 2014, and marked the 6th straight year a new record high has been set.
But perhaps the silver lining is that 2015 marked the 2nd straight year that the increase was smaller than the year before. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2013 were 505 million tons higher than in 2012, but then 2014 and 2015 respectively saw increases of 224 million metric tons and 36 million metric tons.
Unfortunately global warming is still on the march.
The myth that fossil and nuclear power are needed to provide “baseload” electricity supply when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing has been shown to be false. In 2016, Denmark and Germany successfully managed peaks of 140% and 86.3%, respectively, of electricity generation from renewable sources, and in several countries (Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus, for example), achieving annual shares of 20-30% electricity from variable renewables without additional storage is becoming feasible. The key lesson for integrating large shares of variable renewable generation is to ensure maximum flexibility in the power system