In-depth: BP data reveals clean electricity matched coal for the first time in 2019

Renewables were the largest source of new energy in 2019, but there were still record highs for oil, gas and CO2 emissions, according to new global data from oil giant BP.

Low-carbon electricity generation also matched global coal power for the first time in 2019, analysis of the data shows. Further gains for wind and solar drove clean sources to this new milestone, helped by a historic fall in coal output.

The 69th edition of the company’s influential annual statistical review of world energy is published amid a global pandemic that risks derailing global climate efforts, BP says. The firm joins a long list of others calling for a “ green recovery ” by saying the world should aim to “build back better”.

The backdrop to all this is laid out in BP’s new data, which describes a world that was using record amounts of energy in 2019, even though demand rose more slowly than in the previous decade.

Renewables posted record growth in 2019 (3.2 exajoules, EJ, 12.2%) and though they met the largest share of rising demand, a similar portion was from fossil fuels. Large increases for oil (1.6EJ, 0.8%) and gas (2.6EJ, 2.0%) offset falling coal use (-0.9EJ, -0.6%).

As a result, global CO2 emissions rose again, albeit by just 0.5%, leaving the gap to global climate goals larger than ever.

Here, Carbon Brief runs through the key details from this year’s BP data.

Covid context and corporate repositioning

BP has been producing its annual statistical review since 1952 and it has been circulating in public since 1955. This year’s 69th edition arrives at a time of grave global crisis, after the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives to Covid-19 and the world’s deepe s t recession since the 1930s.

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It also coincides with BP’s latest efforts to reposition itself as a company, following the appointment earlier this year of new chief executive Bernard Looney. In February, the firm pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, a commitment Looney recently said was reinforced by coronavirus.

Just this week, BP wrote down the value of its oil and gas reserves, due to a revised price outlook and the expectation of a faster shift away from fossil fuels. BP will flesh out this expectation in its annual energy...