Visualizing U.S. Energy Use in One Giant Chart
If you feel like you’ve seen this diagram before, you probably have.
Every year, it’s assembled by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a research center founded by UC Berkeley and funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The ambitious aim is to chart all U.S. energy use in one Sankey diagram, including the original energy source (i.e. nuclear, oil, wind, etc.) as well as the ultimate end use (i.e. residential, commercial, etc.) for the energy that was generated.
U.S. Energy Use in 2018
According to the research center’s most recent published version of the diagram, U.S. energy use totaled 101.2 quads in 2018.
In case you are wondering, a single quad is equal to 1 quadrillion BTUs, with each quad being roughly equivalent to 185 million barrels of crude oil, 8 billion gallons of gasoline, or 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Here is how the recent figure compares to previous years:
|Year||U.S. Energy Consumption||% Fossil Fuels in Mix|
As you can see in the table, U.S. energy use has been generally increasing, eventually topping 100 quads per year by 2018. During this time, the total percentage of fossil fuels in the mix has dropped, but only from 81.6% to 80.2%.
Taking a closer look at the data, we can see that the largest percentage increases in the mix have come from solar and wind sources:
Energy use measured in quads (1 quadrillion BTUs)
Solar use has increased 122% since 2014, while wind jumped 46% over the same timeframe. Not surprisingly, energy derived from coal has fallen by 26%.
Dealing With the Rejects
One interesting thing about the diagram is that it also shows rejected energy, which represents the energy that actually gets wasted due to various inefficiencies. In fact, 68% of all energy generated is not harnessed for any productive use.
This makes sense, since gasoline engines are usually only about 20-40% efficient, and even electric engines are 85-90% efficient. Put another way, a certain percentage of energy is always released as heat, sound, light, or other forms that are hard for us to harness.
As electric cars rise in popularity and as modern gas-powered engines also get more efficient, there is hope that the amount of this rejected energy will decrease over time.
The World’s Projected Energy Mix, 2018-2040
See how the world’s future energy mix is expected to change by 2040, using projections based on two different policy scenarios.
The World’s Projected Energy Mix, from 2018-2040
Since 1977, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has put together the World Energy Outlook, a highly anticipated annual report that looks towards the future of energy production and consumption on a global basis.
In the latest edition, the report dives into two very different policy scenarios that help illustrate the choices and consequences we have ahead of us.
In this post, we’ll look at each policy scenario and then dive into the associated numbers for each, showing how they affect the projected global energy mix from 2018 to 2040.
The Policy Scenarios
The IEA bases its projections based on two policy scenarios:
- The Stated Policies Scenario
This scenario is intended to reflect the impact of existing public policy frameworks, including announced policy intentions.
- The Sustainable Development Scenario
This scenario outlines a major transformation of the global energy system, aligned with achieving the energy-related components of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as reducing carbon emissions.
Neither scenario is technically a forecast; the IEA sees both scenarios as being possible.
However, this data can still provide a useful starting point for decision makers and investors looking to read the tea leaves. Will countries stick to their guns on their current plans, or will those plans be scrapped in the name of bolder, sustainable initiatives?
Scenario 1: Stated Policies
Today’s chart shows data corresponding to this policies scenario, as adjusted by CAPP.
See the energy use data below, shown in terms of Millions of Tonnes of Oil Equivalent (Mtoe):
|2018||2030||2040||Est. % of mix (2040)|
Note: Data is based on CAPP conversion estimates, and is rounded to nearest 50 Mtoe.
In the Stated Policies Scenario, oil will be the largest energy source in 2040, making up about 28% of the global energy mix — and natural gas will be right behind it, for 25% of supply.
Coal consumption, which is decreasing in Western markets, will stay consistent with 2018 levels thanks to growing demand in Asia.
Meanwhile, renewable energy (excl. hydro) will see an impressive renaissance, with this category (which includes wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) increasing its portion in the mix by over 300% over 22 years.
Scenario 2: Sustainable Development
The IEA’s Sustainable Development scenario is very different from the status quo, as shown here:
The contrast between the energy needed in the Stated Policies (STEPS) and Sustainable Development (SDS) projections is stark, going from a 2,500 Mtoe increase to a 800 Mtoe decrease in total consumption, driven by residential and transportation sectors.
Under this scenario, renewable energy use for electricity consumption (incl. hydro) would need to increase by 8,000 TWh more, with ultimately more than half of it in Asia.
|Renewable Energy (Electricity Generation)||2018||2040||% Increase|
|Stated Policies||6,800 TWh||18,049 TWh||165%|
|Sustainable Development||6,800 TWh||26,065 TWh||283%|
Under this transformational and ambitious scenario, fossil fuel use would plummet. Coal consumption would drop by roughly 60%, oil consumption by 30%, and the role of natural gas in the energy mix would remain stagnant.
Two Scenarios, One Path
Both scenarios are a possibility, but in reality we will likely find ourselves somewhere in between the two extremes.
This makes these two baselines a helpful place to start for both investors and decision makers. Depending on how you think governments, corporations, and organizations will act, you can then adjust the projections accordingly.
Visualizing the Biggest Risks to the Global Economy in 2020
The Global Risk Report 2020 paints an unprecedented risk landscape for 2020—one dominated by climate change and other environmental concerns.
Top Risks in 2020: Dominated by Environmental Factors
Environmental concerns are a frequent talking point drawn upon by politicians and scientists alike, and for good reason. Irrespective of economic or social status, climate change has the potential to affect us all.
While public urgency surrounding climate action has been growing, it can be difficult to comprehend the potential extent of economic disruption that environmental risks pose.
Front and Center
Today’s chart uses data from the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks Report, which surveyed 800 leaders from business, government, and non-profits to showcase the most prominent economic risks the world faces.
According to the data in the report, here are the top five risks to the global economy, in terms of their likelihood and potential impact:
|Top Global Risks (by "Likelihood")||Top Global Risks (by "Impact")|
|#1||Extreme weather||#1||Climate action failure|
|#2||Climate action failure||#2||Weapons of mass destruction|
|#3||Natural disasters||#3||Biodiversity loss|
|#4||Biodiversity loss||#4||Extreme weather|
|#5||Humanmade environmental disasters||#5||Water crises|
With more emphasis being placed on environmental risks, how much do we need to worry?
According to the World Economic Forum, more than we can imagine. The report asserts that, among many other things, natural disasters are becoming more intense and more frequent.
While it can be difficult to extrapolate precisely how environmental risks could cascade into trouble for the global economy and financial system, here are some interesting examples of how they are already affecting institutional investors and the insurance industry.
The Stranded Assets Dilemma
If the world is to stick to its 2°C global warming threshold, as outlined in the Paris Agreement, a significant amount of oil, gas, and coal reserves would need to be left untouched. These assets would become “stranded”, forfeiting roughly $1-4 trillion from the world economy.
Growing awareness of this risk has led to a change in sentiment. Many institutional investors have become wary of their portfolio exposures, and in some cases, have begun divesting from the sector entirely.
The financial case for fossil fuel divestment is strong. Fossil fuel companies once led the economy and world stock markets. They now lag.
– Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
The last couple of years have been a game-changer for the industry’s future prospects. For example, 2018 was a milestone year in fossil fuel divestment:
- Nearly 1,000 institutional investors representing $6.24 trillion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels, up from just $52 billion four years ago;
- Ireland became the first country to commit to fossil fuel divestment. At the time of announcement, its sovereign development fund had $10.4 billion in assets;
- New York City became the largest (but not the first) city to commit to fossil fuel divestment. Its pension funds, totaling $189 billion at the time of announcement, aim to divest over a 5-year period.
A Tough Road Ahead
In a recent survey, actuaries ranked climate change as their top risk for 2019, ahead of damages from cyberattacks, financial instability, and terrorism—drawing strong parallels with the results of this year’s Global Risk Report.
These growing concerns are well-founded. 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters, with $344 billion in global economic losses. This daunting figure translated to a record year for insured losses, totalling $140 billion.
Although insured losses over 2019 have fallen back in line with the average over the past 10 years, Munich RE believes that long-term environmental effects are already being felt:
- Recent studies have shown that over the long term, the environmental conditions for bushfires in Australia have become more favorable;
- Despite a decrease in U.S. wildfire losses compared to previous years, there is a rising long-term trend for forest area burned in the U.S.;
- An increase in hailstorms, as a result of climate change, has been shown to contribute to growing losses across the globe.
The Ball Is In Our Court
It’s clear that the environmental issues we face are beginning to have a larger real impact. Despite growing awareness and preliminary actions such as fossil fuel divestment, the Global Risk Report stresses that there is much more work to be done to mitigate risks.
How companies and governments choose to respond over the next decade will be a focal point of many discussions to come.
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