Fossil fuel use reaches global record despite clean energy growth

Despite rise in use of renewable energy in 2023, fossil fuels made up 81.5 per cent of world’s primary energy last year

Coal-fired power plant in Germany: fossil fuels made up 81.5 per cent of the world’s primary energy last year. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

The world’s consumption of fossil fuels climbed to a record high last year, driving emissions to more than 40 gigatonnes of CO2 for the first time, according to a global energy report.

Despite a record rise in the use of renewable energy in 2023, consumption of fossil fuels also continued to increase, an annual review of world energy by the Energy Institute found.

Juliet Davenport, the president of the Energy Institute, said the report had revealed “another year of highs in our energy-hungry world” including a record high consumption of fossil fuels, which rose by 1.5 per cent.

The findings threaten to dash hopes held by climate scientists that 2023 would be recorded as the year in which annual emissions peaked before the global fossil fuel economy begins a terminal decline.


The Energy Institute, the global professional body for the energy sector, found that while energy industry emissions may have reached a peak in advanced economies, developing economies are continuing to increase their reliance on coal, gas and oil.

Overall, fossil fuels made up 81.5 per cent of the world’s primary energy last year, down marginally from 82 per cent the year before, said the report, even as wind and solar farms generated record amounts of clean electricity.

The report, authored by consultants at KPMG and Kearney, found that wind and solar power climbed by 13 per cent last year to reach a new record of 4,748 terawatt hours in 2023.

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But that was not enough to match the world’s growing consumption of primary energy, which rose 2 per cent last year to a record high and led to more fossil fuel use.

The review found that the world’s appetite for gas remained steady in 2024 while consumption of coal climbed by 1.6 per cent and oil demand rose by 2 per cent to reach 100 million barrels a day for the first time.

The report found that, in India, fossil fuel consumption climbed by 8 per cent last year, matching the increase in overall energy demand to make up 89 per cent of all energy use. This meant that, for the first time, more coal was used in India than Europe and North America combined, it said.

In Europe, fossil fuels fell to below 70 per cent of primary energy use for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, driven by falling demand and the growth of renewable energy.

Europe’s demand for gas in particular has continued to tumble since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which caused pipeline gas imports into Europe to collapse. Overall gas demand fell by 7 per cent in 2023, said the report, after a fall of 13 per cent the previous year. - Guardian