By May 15, 2017 Read More →

2016 global electricity trends: renewables use up, fossil fuels down


Total OECD production of electricity was 8.4% higher than in 2015

An assessment of monthly data shows that in 2016, OECD net electricity production grew by 0.9 per cent compared to 2015, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

Within this small overall change there was a large increase of 9.5 per cent in geothermal, solar, wind and other renewables generation. There was also a smaller but still significant increase of hydro at 2.2 per cent. combustible fuels and nuclear fell by 0.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent, respectively.

In the OECD, non-combustible renewables accounted for 22.4 per cent of all generation compared to 21.6 per cent in 2015.

The share of production from combustible fuels (including combustible renewables) fell by 0.7 ppt to 59.5 per cent, with the remainder, 18.1 per cent, made up from nuclear – virtually unchanged from 2015.

Shares of generation by source in the OECD for 201

Overall production rose by about 0.9 per cent in the OECD, but each OECD region saw different changes in production shares by fuel type during 2016.

In OECD Americas (hereafter, “the Americas”), Combustible Fuels dropped by 1.5 per cent while Nuclear increased 0.7 per cent, Hydro increased by 3.2 per cent and Geothermal, Wind, Solar and Other renewables increased significantly by 22.5 per cent.

OECD Asia/Oceania showed the same trends, with Combustible Fuels dropping 0.5 per cent but increases in Nuclear, 6.6 per cent, Hydro, 1.4 per cent, and Geothermal, Wind, Solar and Other renewables increasing the most, 12.6 per cent.

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OECD Europe showed a different trend with the largest increase coming from Combustible Fuels, 2.6 per cent, and a smaller increase in Hydro of 1.0 per cent. Other non-combustible renewables remained virtually flat while the only decrease came from Nuclear, 2.4 per cent.

In terms of shares of generation, non-combustible renewables accounted for 30 per cent of generation in Europe compared to 21 per cent in the Americas and 12 per cent in Asia/Oceania. Combustible Fuels remain the dominant source of electricity and accounted for 61 per cent in the Americas, 78 per cent in Asia/Oceania and 47 per cent in Europe. Nuclear produced 23 per cent in Europe, 18 per cent in the Americas and 9.5 per cent in Asia/Oceania.

Shares of generation by source in each OECD regionCombustible Fuel

Total OECD cumulative production of electricity from combustible fuels in 2016 was 6 174.3 TWh, which was 12.9 TWh, or 0.2 per cent, lower than in 2015.

This comprised reductions in Asia/Oceania and the Americas of 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent but an increase in Europe of 2.6 per cent.

One element within Combustible Fuels was the switch from coal to natural gas in the United States and the United Kingdom, continuing the trend from within the last year.

In 2016, the United States reduced use of coal plants in favor of natural gas plants due to the low price of natural gas.

The same trend was seen in the U.K., although the shift was larger with the added influence of carbon pricing in the U.K.

Natural Gas, Coal, and all other electricity production in the United States (TWh) and UK

Nuclear Electricity

Total OECD cumulative production of nuclear electricity in 2016 was 1 873.6 TWh, 2.7 TWh, or 0.1 per cent lower than in 2015.

Europe was the only region which decreased its nuclear production, by 19.6 TWh, or 2.4 per cent, to 790 TWh led by the continued phase out of nuclear electricity in Germany as well as decreases in the Czech Republic and France caused by extended outages. There were also operational outages in Slovenia and Switzerland.

Yearly nuclear production in Europe (TWh)

Hydro Electricity

Total OECD production of hydroelectricity in 2016 was 1 451.6 TWh, which was 30.7 TWh, or 2.2 per cent, higher than in 2015, and increased in each OECD region.

From 2000 to 2015, Hydro production has only grown 0.8 per cent because most of the available potential in OECD countries is already utilised.

The increase in Hydro for 2016 was predominately a result of higher rainfall in many countries, especially in Canada, the United States and Norway, the top three Hydro producers in the OECD. These increases compensated for significant drops of Hydro production in Finland and Sweden.

The largest percentage increase throughout the OECD was seen in Portugal, 173 per cent higher in 2016 than the average Hydro production during the 2005 – 2015 period and 73 per cent higher in 2016 than in 2015.

This allowed for the highest level of electricity exports to Spain since 2005. As Spain increased its use of electricity imports, from Portugal and other countries, it saw the lowest level of indigenous production in 2016 since 2005.

Geothermal, Solar, Wind and Other Renewables

Total OECD production of electricity from Geothermal, Solar, Wind and Other renewables was 873.9 TWh in 2016, which was 75.6 TWh, or 8.4 per cent, higher than in 2015, with increases seen in all OECD regions.

Europe had the smallest increase in this category of 1.9 TWh, or 0.4 per cent. In Asia/Oceania, there was an increase of 9.6 TWh, or 12.6 per cent. The Americas rose the most with 64.1 TWh, or 22.5 per cent, driven by increases in US Solar and Wind of 45 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.

The European trend contrasts with last year, when Europe showed the highest increases of all of the OECD regions.

Solar and Wind dominate, producing roughly 25 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively, of the electricity in this category for Europe and whilst it was a good year for European Solar production, which increased 4 337 TWh, or 4 per cent, Wind production fell 1 per cent.

Germany, which produced roughly 28 per cent of the European Solar and Wind for 2016, had decreases of 1 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively, due to weather conditions.

With the aforementioned phase-out of Nuclear, this necessitated an increase in Combustible Fuels.

Electricity Trade

Total OECD electricity trade is representative of trade in Europe and the Americas3 since there is no electricity trade in Asia/Oceania.

Trade increased this year in the Americas by about 8 per cent for Imports and Exports. In Europe, imported electricity in 2016 fell 8.7 per cent to 386.1 TWh and electricity exports fell 9.8 per cent to 378.4 TWh.

Interestingly, several countries switched their trade balance from 2015 to 2016, with Portugal and Ireland switching from net importers to net exporters, and Spain, Switzerland and Poland switching from net exporters to net importers.

France remained a net exporter, but decreased exports significantly due to Nuclear reductions. Sweden’s low Hydro production caused its exports to decrease.

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