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Report | 2022

Peaking: Why Fossil Fuel Demand Peaked in 2019

Renewable growth and efficiency gains inevitably crush fossil fuel growth.

By Kingsmill BondSam Butler-Sloss
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This presentation, another installment of The Peaking Series, shows that it is increasingly clear that global fossil fuel demand reached a peak in 2019, and we are now bumping along a plateau before an inevitable decline.

Renewable energy already supplied 85 percent of growth in primary energy demand in 2019. Peak fossil fuel demand was looming, and renewables supplied all the growth in energy demand in the period from 2019–2021.

Key clean energy technologies are moving up exponential growth curves, meaning that the decline in fossil fuel demand this decade will be at least four times as much as over the past decade.

And efficiency gains are rising because clean energy technologies are 2-4 times more efficient than fossil fuels.

The combination of growing renewables and rising efficiency means there is simply no room for fossil fuel demand growth. Annual supply growth of solar and wind is 5 EJ, rising to around 16 EJ by 2030; annual total energy demand growth will struggle to rise much above 6 EJ this decade before falling back in the next decade.

Fossil fuel demand thus forms a classic pattern of a peak, a plateau, and then a cliff. By the second half of the decade, it will be obvious that fossil fuels are in terminal decline.