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Study: Use of Oil, Other Fossil Fuels for Power at Turning Point in 2019

FILE - View of smokestacks, about 200m (656 feet) high, at a thermal power plant in Inchon, west of Seoul, Feb. 1, 2007.
Study: Use of Oil, Other Fossil Fuels for Power at Turning Point in 2019
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The use of fossil fuels for making electricity fell in 2019 in the United States, the European Union (EU) and India. At the same time, those areas all produced more electricity than the year before.

That information comes from Tomas Kaberger, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

The United States, the EU and India are three of the top four largest producers of power from fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. Kaberger says the decreases suggest the use of such fuels could soon be coming to an end.

In his study, Kaberger provided detailed information on more than 70 percent of the world’s power production. It shows that for most of 2019, the amount of power coming from fossil fuels dropped by 156 terawatt hours from one year earlier. That is equal to the entire amount of power produced by Argentina in 2018.

Kaberger’s records also show that renewable power production increased at a faster rate than the overall growth in power for the first time. Production rose by 297 terawatt hours during the period compared to 233 terawatt hours.

Kaberger said that fossil fuel usage is likely to continue shrinking with the rise in electric vehicle usage.

“New renewables are even cheaper than oil per unit of energy electricity generated and even fuels produced from electricity will outcompete against fossil fuels at increasing speed in transport, heating and industry,” he said.

Kaberger used records from official sources, such as the International Energy Agency and the United States government’s Energy Information Administration. He included information about the U.S., China, India, the EU and other members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The data for Japan and the OECD members outside of the EU and the U.S. were only through to November.

China, the world’s biggest power producer, was the exception to the decrease. Power produced by fossil fuels in the country rose by 120 terawatt hours in 2019.

Fossil fuel power production last decreased in 2009, after the international financial crisis. Overall electricity production around the world also decreased that year. That information comes from British Petroleum’s Statistical Review of World Energy. 2009 was the first year overall power production dropped since BP began publishing the review in 1985.

The move away from fossil fuels largely comes from government leaders trying to keep promises made under the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Aaron Sheldrick reported this story for the Reuters news service. Jonathan Evans adapted his report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

cheaper – adj. less costly

overall – adv. as a whole; in general

terawatt – n. a unit of power equal to one trillion watts

review – n. a report that gives someone's opinion about the quality of a book, performance, product, etc.