Global electricity demand rose by 4% in 2018, nearly twice as fast as overall energy demand, and at its fastest pace since 2010. Renewables and nuclear power met the majority of the growth in demand. Still, generation from coal- and gas-fired power plants increased considerably, driving up CO2 emissions from the sector by 2.5%.

Change in electricity generation by source, 2017-2018


Global electricity demand in 2018 increased by 4%, or 900 TWh, growing nearly twice as fast as the overall demand for energy. This was also the fastest increase since 2010, when the global economy recovered from the financial crisis. Together, renewables and nuclear power met a majority of the increase in power demand.

Still, generation from coal- and gas-fired power plants also rose considerably to meet higher electricity demand, driving up CO2 emissions from the sector by 2.5%. Emissions from power generation reached about 13 Gt, or 38% of total energy-related CO2 emissions last year.

Half of the growth in global energy demand came from the power sector, in response to higher electricity consumption.

About a fifth of the growth in electricity demand last year can be attributed to weather conditions. Demand for air-conditioning during the summer jumped last year, which ranked as the fourth hottest year on record. Likewise, colder-than-average winters in North America increased the call for heating.

Electricity generation mix, 2018


Renewables generation growth accelerated to 7% in 2018, from 6% in 2017, and met 45% of global electricity demand growth. It reached record highs in several countries, such as Germany, where for the first time, generation from renewables exceeded coal-fired generation. In the United Kingdom, renewables produced a record 35% of the total generation of 335 TWh.

Solar PV, hydro and wind each account for 30% of the growth in renewable generation globally, with bioenergy accounting for most of the rest.

Nuclear power generation increased by 3.3%, or 90 TWh. Half of that was due to new plants entering service in China. Restarting four nuclear power plants for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan and higher availability in France together added 38 TWh. Production in Switzerland, Taiwan, Pakistan and Sweden also increased. Generation fell in South Korea, because of new maintenance regulation, and in Belgium, because of shutdowns caused by safety-related concerns.

Despite the important increase in generation from low-carbon sources, coal- and gas-fired generators were also called upon in 2018 to meet higher electricity demand.

Coal grew more than any other single source of generation in 2018, accounting for 26% of total additional generation. With a 38% market share, it remains the largest source of electricity generation. The highest increase in coal power generation took place in China, followed by India. These countries more than offset significant reductions in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Natural gas was the second-largest single source of global electricity generation and grew by almost 240 TWh, nearly as much as coal. Most of the increase came from the United States, where gas-fired generation rose by 15% to overtake coal as the largest source of generation.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest power markets, accounted for 70% of global demand growth. In China, electricity demand increased by 8.5%, a notable uptick compared with recent years. This was led by the industrial sector, including iron, steel and other metals, cement and construction, as well as higher demand for cooling.

In the United States, after stable consumption in recent years, demand jumped by nearly 4% to a record level of almost 4 000 TWh, 17% of the global total. The majority of the growth was attributable to a hotter summer and a colder than average winter, which increased power demand in buildings.

India's power demand increased by around 65 TWh, or 5.4%, a slower rate than the previous year. The increase was driven by higher demand in buildings, especially coming from air conditioning, as well as higher access to electricity. Last year, India completed the electrification of all its villages, with electricity connections extended to around 30 million people in the last 2 years.

In Europe and Japan, power demand grew by less than 1%, while in Australia demand fell. South Korea saw demand growth of around 3% due to higher-than-average summer temperatures.