Global carbon emissions flatline due to changing fuel mix, lower energy demand

Global carbon emissions are flatlining, which indicates a downturn in worldwide power demand and shift in the fuel mix, a new study says.

Global carbon emissions caused by energy production remained steady in 2015 and posted the lowest growth in the past 25 years excluding 2009, when there was a decline in the aftermath of the economic crisis, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData.

The company’s latest report states that this stall in global carbon emissions can be attributed to a slowdown in demand for power and a shift in fuel mix from coal to low carbon fuels such as natural gas.

According to Ankit Mathur, GlobalData’s practice head covering power, global installed power capacity reached 6,241GW in 2015 from just over 5,000GW in 2010, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3%.

“Currently, the global power industry is characterised by heavy dependence on thermal fuel sources for power generation, as several major power-generating countries have abundant coal reserves,” Mathur said.

Although thermal power will remain a dominant feature in the global power market for the foreseeable future, the share of thermal power in the overall installed power capacity will witness a declining long-term trend.

The share of thermal power is expected to fall from its current level of 62.6% to 53.6% by 2025.

“Market uptake for clean coal technology is expected to increase in the coming decade as countries such as China and the US are adopting it to improve efficiency and reduce emissions in comparison to conventional coal-fired plants. The outlook for conventional power in the US looks positive with the change in regime as the new government is considered to be pro oil and gas,” Mathur continued.

“Countries that have abundant coal reserves, such as the US, China, Japan, Russia, and India, are developing coal power plants, whereas those dependent on imported coal are curbing their imports to reduce emissions.”

In terms of renewable power, installed capacity other than hydro – including bioenergy – increased from 321.6GW in 2010 to 787.5GW in 2015 at a CAGR of 19.6%, and it is expected that this will reach 2,150GW by 2025.

Renewables now present a credible challenge to fossil fuels in terms of global investments and remain the fastest growing market segment, GlobalData states in the study.

The share of renewables in global installed power capacity increased from 4.6% in 2010 to 12.6% in 2015, and is expected to reach 23% by 2025.

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