One of the world’s largest oil companies confirmed scant growth in global carbon emissions from energy yesterday and projected a robust future for renewables in its annual energy assessment.

Oil major BP PLC found that growth in shale oil and gas output in the United States lowered the prices of these fuels around the world. The company, which closed its own solar division in 2011 because it couldn’t make enough money selling photovoltaics, also reported that wind and solar power expanded rapidly worldwide as technology improved and manufacturers achieved economies of scale.

“These advances mean that, despite the weakness of energy demand, oil, natural gas and renewable energy all recorded solid growth in 2015,” wrote Bob Dudley, group chief executive at BP, in the report.

The 65th edition of the “BP Statistical Review of World Energy” looked at energy data from the prior year and placed them in the broader context of global energy trends.

“It’s a hugely valuable piece of research,” said Richard Morningstar, founding director and chairman of the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council.

The report found that in 2015, primary energy consumption grew at a rate of 1 percent, well below the 10-year average growth rate of 1.9 percent. Other than the 2009 economic recession, this is the slowest growth rate since 1998. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions from energy grew by 0.1 percent in 2015.

The slowdown in energy demand comes after more than a decade of double-digit growth in China, driven by rapid industrialization. “That’s coming to an end, and we’re transitioning to a slower growth profile,” said Spencer Dale, group chief economist at BP.

Speaking yesterday at a launch event for the report hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., he noted that energy efficiency measures to keep greenhouse gas emissions in check were a big part of the story.

“I do think it’s striking that in a year where energy prices fell so sharply, you still saw such a significant decline in energy intensity,” Dale said. “The energy intensity of [global] GDP, the average amount of energy needed to produce each unit of GDP, ... fell by about 2 percent.”

China, U.S. driving coal consumption drop

The findings echo a report from the International Energy Agency from earlier this year that found that global carbon emissions remained flat for the second year in a row while the global economy grew (ClimateWire, March 17).

“What happened here is a combination of weak growth in global energy demand combined with a shift in the fuel mix,” Dale said. “Carbon emissions effectively stalled last year.”

Renewable energy and natural gas were some of the big winners last year, and those trends are likely to continue. Dale noted that solar power has grown sixtyfold in the past 10 years and has doubled in capacity every 20 months. “We expect renewable energy to grow quicker than any fuel seen in modern history,” he said.

Meanwhile, coal emerged as the global loser, with global consumption falling by 1.8 percent. The largest declines came from the United States and China, and coal’s share of global energy dropped to 29.2 percent, the lowest level since 2005.

With an international climate treaty signed last year in Paris, Dale said it’s unlikely global demand will surge again, but the path to a low-carbon future remains uncertain.

“There are many ways one can hit the Paris accords,” he said. “I don’t know what the right answer is. And I’d rather do it by a price on carbon rather than by regulations, and let the market and business communities find a way.”

Click here to see the report.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500