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Key trends of global electricity balance in 2012

July 31, 2013
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

Dear friend of Technical English,

Find below a technical text on power engineering that concerns key trends of 2012 global energy balance. The text is composed using excerpts from the Enerdata press release of 30 May 2013 in Grenoble. Enerdata is an independent Research & Consulting firm specialized in the global energy industry and carbon market since 1991. Enjoy the text and think about the future of global energy development. Your comments are welcome.

Key trends of 2012 global energy balance

Following annual analysis of world energy demand in 2012 Enerdata published the report concerning key trends of 2012 global energy balance for G20 countries.

The analysis confirms several ongoing trends initiated during previous years. According to it the most remarkable trends are the growing weight of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in the global energy balance and the significant changes within the mix power sources of electricity production.

BRICS growing weight in the world energy demand

With a view to quasi-stagnation of the global energy consumption (+1%), and improving energy intensity (-1.7%), the accelerating share of the BRICS in the world energy balance is one of the key highlights of 2012 energy balance.

English: BRICS counties. BRICS - Brazil, Russi...

In fact, energy demand of the BRICS increased by 3.7% despite a lasting decrease in consumption growth in China (4% in comparison with 8% in 2011). As to electricity demand, the BRICS catch up to the G7 level and represent 6 800 TWh.

Opposite directions of using gas and coal in the USA and Europe

Strong alterations in using gas and coal are observed in the USA and in Europe. The development of unconventional gas in the USA has extremely reduced the usage of coal in favor of gas for electricity generation in this country. As a result the surplus US coal is exported at very competitive prices, which leads European power plants to substitute gas by coal. This change in the mix primary power sources is particularly intense in the United Kingdom (the share of coal increased from 30% to 40% in the mix primary sources) and in Italy (the gas reduced from 48% to 42% of the mix). It also concerns Germany, where coal became already the major fuel (increase to 47% in the mix) – see Energy policy of Germany after Fukushima.

Weight of the BRICS and coal increase in Europe augment CO₂ emissions

At the global level, these trends result in an increase in CO₂ emissions (+1.4%) higher than the energy demand (+1%). It occurs mainly due to the prevailing use of coal in the mix power sources by the BRICS, enhanced by their growing influence in energy demand trends. Moreover, the escalating use of coal in the EU cancels out the rising share of renewables in the mix power sources. These two phenomena are more decisive than the reduction of CO₂ emissions in the United States due to the accelerated displacement of coal by gas. Furthermore, the almost total shutdown of nuclear power in Japan and its substitution by fossil energy sources also contributed to the increase in emissions (+5.7% despite a decline in energy consumption by 3%).


Foreseeing energy demands?

The rapid evolution of gas / coal share in the electricity production calls for caution concerning the sustainability of the recent trends. At least the year 2012 confirms the high responsiveness of power producers to generate electricity at the lowest cost. In any case coal continues to dominate the global mix power sources. Up to now 42% share in world electricity production pertains to coal and lignite.

 Highest ten electricity producers in year 2012

Country Produced  TWh Number of inhabitants
China 4 926 1 338 612 968
United States 4 295 307 212 123
India 1 087 1 156 897 766
Russia 1 064 140 041 247
Japan 1 057 127 078 679
Canada 646 33 487 208
Germany 623 82 329 758
Brazil 561 198 739 269
France 559 62 150 775
South Korea 526 48 508 972


BRICS – includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

energy intensityis calculated by dividing the total energy consumption of a country by its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It measures the total amount of energy necessary to generate one unit of GDP. Total energy consumption includes coal, gas, oil, electricity, heat and biomass. (See for more details Glossary at http://yearbook.enerdata.net/)

TWh – terawatt hour, billion watt hour

PS: When studying the technical text, use if necessary 

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