Energy consumption in Spain reduces by 1.7% in 2019 following the collapse of coal

The “Statistical Review of World Energy 2020” from bp, one of the publications of reference in the energy sector, details the key energy trends that emerged before the COVID-19 crisis and offers valuable information as the world recovers from the pandemic and continues its pathway towards zero emissions.

In the case of Spain, the report shows how primary energy consumption broke the growth trend that started in 2015, to fall 1.7%, driven by the collapse of coal (-54.6%) and the sharp drop in hydroelectric (-27.74%), which last year achieved exceptionally high figures (+87%) thanks to the rain. Other energy consumption experienced growth: gas was up 14.75%, followed by renewable energies (+7.3%), nuclear (+4.4%) and oil (+0.09%).

This resulted in an energy consumption mix in Spain as follows: oil (47.5%), gas (22.7%) and renewables (13%) held the first three places. Nuclear accounted for 9.1%, followed by hydro with 3.9% and coal, whose share of the mix has plummeted to 3.7%.

Following a slight decline last year, electricity generation once again grew in Spain, albeit at a conservative pace, at 0.49%. Gas, with an increase of 48.2% and renewable energies (10.9%) headed up the growth data, followed by nuclear (4.8%). The contribution of all other energies to electricity generation decreased: oil with 7.5%, hydro power with 27.5% and coal, which experienced a sharp fall of 66.1%.

Given these figures, the electricity generation mix varied compared to 2018, with natural gas in first place with 31.2%, relegating renewable energies to second with 28.1%. Nuclear returned to hold third place with 21.2%, however hydro with 9.2% took over fourth place from coal which, with just 4.8%, was displaced to last in the share of the energy mix. Oil was just ahead of coal with 4.9% of the mix.

These variations resulted in CO2 emissions in Spain falling 5.1% (above the European average of -3.2%) and the opposite to the rest of the world, where emissions rose by 0.5%.

The global trend in carbon emissions continues to cause concern

According to the Statistical Review 2020, growth in primary energy consumption at global level fell to 1.3% in 2019, less than half the growth rate in 2018 (2.8%). Although certain aspects of the report, such as the strong and continuous growth of renewable energies, are encouraging as regards the path towards a more sustainable world, other aspects, including the persistent growth in carbon emissions, highlight the challenge facing the world to achieve the net-zero emissions target.

As such, the report reveals some encouraging data, such as the strong and continuous growth of renewable energies which, led by wind and solar power, achieved a record amount, accounting for up to 40% of the growth in primary energy in 2019. Its participation in electricity generation (10.4%) also overtook nuclear for the first time.

At the same time, coal consumption fell for the fourth time in the last six years, by 0.6%, driven by a sharp fall in demand across the OECD and its participation in the primary energy mix reduced to its lowest level in 16 years (27%). Natural gas consumption, however, rose by 2%, well below the exceptional growth seen in 2018, but its share of the mix once again achieved an all-time high (24.2%). As regards production, it grew by 3.4%, stimulated by a record increase in exports of liquefied natural gas (54 bcm).

By contrast, other aspects of the energy system remain a cause for concern. Despite its lower contribution to the primary energy mix, coal continued to be the largest source of electricity generation, accounting for more than 36% of global energy, which is worrying. This, compared to the mere 10% provided by renewable energies, makes it patently clear that renewables must grow much more over the next three decades if the energy sector is to decarbonise.  While growth in oil consumption remained below the average at 0.9%, demand for all liquid fuels, including biofuels, exceeded 100 million barrels per day.

Of more concern is the trend for carbon emissions. The slowdown in the growth of carbon emissions to 0.5% in 2019 could suggest some grounds for optimism, however this deceleration needs to be seen in the context of the big increase in carbon emissions in 2018 of 2.1%. The hope was that, as the one-off factors boosting carbon emissions in 2018 were mitigated, carbon emissions would fall significantly. That fall did not happen and the average annual growth in carbon emissions in 2018 and 2019 was greater than the average recorded for the last 10 years.