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Global energy demand exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 2021

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In its Statistical Review of World Energy 2022, BP points out that the global demand for primary energy in 2021 was 1.3% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.

Primary energy demand grew by the largest amount in history, at 31 exajoules (EJ) in 2021, which is perhaps hardly surprising given the rapid drop in energy consumption in the previous year that resulted from lockdowns and other restrictions. Developed economies, however, still consumed less primary energy than they had in 2019, with developing economies driving the growth in energy demand.

The consumption of energy from fossil fuels stayed stable between 2019 and 2021, with greater coal and natural gas consumption offsetting a drop in the demand for oil. Overall, the additional energy demand was met by renewable energy, and BP, which also makes the Castrol lubricant range, estimates that emission levels were at about the same level for the two years.

Spencer Dale, the Chief Economist at BP, pointed to the positive side of the high energy demand:

“In many ways, this sharp rebound in energy demand is a sign of global success, driven by a rapid recovery in economic activity as the widespread distribution of effective vaccines allowed for an easing in Covid restrictions in many parts of the world and a return to our everyday lives.”

Dale also highlighted, however, that it meant the drop in energy consumption and associated carbon emissions seen in 2020 was transitory, with carbon-equivalent emissions having risen again in 2021.

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