Coal Consumption Rebounded to Near Record Highs as Primary Energy Consumption Soared in 2021

With the global economy recovering from the COVID economic shutdown energy was being consumed at record levels BP’s statistical review of world energy showed. Primary energy consumption reached an all-time high, with emerging economies accounting for most of the increase. With the failed transition policies which halted fossil fuel exploration and growth coal consumption rebounded sharply and was very close to its all-time high of 2013. This led to an explosion in energy prices around the world with coal and natural gas seeing record highs and oil prices almost back to those heady $150 levels.


  • Primary energy demand increased by 5.8% in 2021, exceeding 2019 levels by 1.3%.
  • Between 2019 and 2021, renewable energy increased by over 8EJ.
  • Consumption of fossil fuels was broadly unchanged.
  • Fossil fuels accounted for 82% of primary energy use last year, down from 83% in 2019 and 85% five years ago.

Of note however in the OECD nations energy efficiency has improved markedly as has the mix towards cleaner fuels. Primary energy consumption per capita has been more or less flat for a decade; it peaked 15 years ago in OECD countries.

  • Coal consumption grew only 0.1% per year from 2011 to 2021
  • Gas grew at 2.2%.
  • During that same 10 years, renewable power generation grew at 15% per year on average.

The global energy system is huge and complex, and massive consumption of fossil fuels still dominates the mix. Zero-carbon power, however, is where growth lies. 

Coal Highlights in 2021

  • Coal prices rose dramatically in 2021, with European prices averaging $121/tonne and the Asian market price averaging $145/t, its highest since 2008.
  • Coal consumption grew over 6% in 2021 to 160 EJ, slightly above 2019 levels and its highest level since 2014.
  • China and India accounted for over 70% of the growth in coal demand in 2021, increasing by 3.7 and 2.7 EJ, respectively.
  • Global production matched consumption with an increase in supply of 440mt. China and India accounted for much of the increase in production, which was largely consumed domestically, as well as Indonesia, supporting higher exports.
  • Notably, both Europe and North America showed an increase in coal consumption in 2021 after nearly 10 years of back-to-back declines.

BP Plc since the 1960s shares an annual Statistical Review of World Energy. It provides valuable data on energy production, consumption, power generation and trade flows.

Source: Statistical Review of World Energy Bloomberg

From The TradersCommunity Research Desk