Global coal and oil use to peak in 2020

That’s it ! Renewable energy sources and electric vehicles are progressing so fast around the world that according to a new study coal and oil use could peak worldwide in as little as three years.

Yes, you read that right. We knew that global greenhouse gases emission from energy had been peaking for the past three years – largely thanks to China – but now, here is another series of nails in the coffins of coal and oil.

If I reported previously that solar was booming, I collected since a collection of real facts that show the magnitude of the shift. When I discovered solar photovoltaics in 2004, the global capacity was of three gigawatts (or 3,000 megawatts if you prefer). It had taken Mankind fifty years to reach that milestone. Nowadays, we install this capacity globally every two weeks as costs dropped in recent years.

In 2016, around 70 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity were installed. Yes. That much… The current solar PV capacity worldwide has passed 300 GW. We essentially multiplied by a factor hundred the installed capacity in twelve years… And this is not going to stop anytime soon as solar PV capacity globally will surpass 756.1 GW by 2025 according to Cleantechnica.


But I digress, let us get back to that study, which was published by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and Imperial College’s Grantham Institute, show that continued rapid adoption of breakthrough technologies such as solar, giant wind turbines, large batteries and electric vehicles could further disrupt energy markets very quickly.

Nowadays, coal is losing ground in its main markets such as India and China, the United States and the European Union . Because of this, Europe‘s five major utilities lost more than €100 billion in value from 2008 to 2013 because they were unprepared for an 8 per cent growth in renewable power, of which solar panels played a big part.


Here are some quoted takeaways from the report:

  • Solar PV (with associated energy storage costs included) could supply 23% of global power generation in 2040 and 29% by 2050, entirely phasing out coal and leaving natural gas with just a 1% market share.

  • EVs (electric vehicles) account for approximately 35% of the road transport market by 2035 (…) By 2050, EVs account for over two-thirds of the road transport market. This growth trajectory sees EVs displace approximately two million barrels of oil per day (mbd) in 2025 and 25mbd in 2050. To put these figures in context, the recent 2014-15 oil price collapse was the result of a two mbd (2%) shift in the supply-demand balance.


All these findings are corroborated by many other studies from reputable institutions such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

While this needs strong commitments from national governments, it doesn’t need that much as the economics are already on the side of renewables nowadays. Solar has already become almost too cheap to meter and it won’t be stopped. Additionally, energy efficiency technologies such as LED light bulbs are a major drive towards lower emissions.

But to conclude, while peaking fossil fuels and exponential renewable energy growth sounds like we are on our way to solve climate change, it simply is not the case as I reported in October. We need to change our whole economic system… But these news are still great news. So let us all work towards a carbon neutral future !

2 thoughts on “Global coal and oil use to peak in 2020”

  1. thanks for a glimmer of hope in a very shady part of the political scene–plenty of sun above the coal mines–we appreciate the optimistic numbers after hearing the frustrating news about coal and oil revival and climate change research keep our chins toward the sun and fresh air.

  2. Thank YOU Nadine for your continuous support.

    There are studies that demand both America and Europe go coal free by 2030. It could be done and it would have significant impacts on global air quality and global climate change.

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