Global energy consumption in 2018 increased at nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world. Demand for all fuels increased, led by natural gas, even as solar and wind posted double-digit growth. Higher electricity demand was responsible for over half of the growth in energy needs. Energy efficiency saw lacklustre improvement.
Energy-related CO2 emissions rose 1.7% to a historic high of 33.1 Gt CO2. While emissions from all fossil fuels increased, the power sector accounted for nearly two-thirds of emissions growth. Coal use in power alone surpassed 10 Gt CO2, mostly in Asia. China, India, and the United States accounted for 85% of the net increase in emissions, while emissions declined for Germany, Japan, Mexico, France and the United Kingdom.
Oil demand rose by 1.3% in 2018, led by strong growth in the United States. The start-up of large petrochemical projects drove product demand, which partially offset a slowdown in growth in gasoline demand. The United States and China showed the largest overall growth, while demand fell in Japan and Korea and was stagnant in Europe.
Natural gas consumption grew by an estimated 4.6%, its largest increase since 2010 when gas demand bounced back from the global financial crisis. This second consecutive year of strong growth, following a 3% rise in 2017, was driven by growing energy demand and substitution from coal. The switch from coal to gas accounted for over one-fifth of the rise in gas demand. The United States led the growth followed by China.
Coal demand grew for a second year, but its role in the global mix continued to decline. Last year's 0.7% increase was significantly slower than the 4.5% annual growth rate seen in the period 2000-10. But while the share of coal in primary energy demand and in electricity generation slowly continues to decrease, it still remains the largest source of electricity and the second-largest source of primary energy.
Renewables increased by 4% in 2018, accounting for almost one-quarter of global energy demand growth. The power sector led the gains, with renewables-based electricity generation increasing at its fastest pace this decade. Solar PV, hydropower, and wind each accounted for about a third of the growth, with bioenergy accounting for most of the rest. Renewables covered almost 45% of the world's electricity generation growth, now accounting for over 25% of global power output.
Electricity demand rose by 4%, nearly twice as fast as overall energy demand, and at its fastest pace since 2010. Renewables and nuclear power met the majority of the growth in demand. Still, generation from coal- and gas-fired power plants increased considerably, driving up CO2 emissions from the sector by 2.5%.
Energy efficiency across the global economy continued to improve, with global primary energy intensity falling by 1.3%. But this was lower than improvement rates seen in recent years. Although efficiency was still the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions abatement in the energy sector, 2018 marked the third consecutive year in which the improvement rate for energy efficiency slowed.