Fossil fuels will reign supreme for next two decades, claims BP

BP has been accused of using its energy outlook reports as a 'public relations exercise' after the oil giant's latest analysis suggests that fossil fuels would still be providing 80% of global energy supplies in 2035.

BP charts tumbling oil prices and global renewable roll-outs through its annual Energy Outlook report – a long-term examination of the projections and scenarios of world energy markets over the next 20 years.

Despite acknowledging that the reports consistently underestimate deployment of renewable power, BP is seemingly refusing to baulk on its backing for continued fossil fuel generation. It predicts that global carbon emissions will rise by 20% through to 2035, far exceeding emissions goals compatible with less than 2C of global warming.

VIDEO: BP Energy Outlook 2016

Extraction distraction

Oil Change International’s Greg Muttitt has criticised this outlook, claiming it is “a story of how an oil and gas company predicts the rosy prospects of oil and gas companies”.

“BP would like us to believe that government action on climate will fail, that clean technologies will fizzle, and that the future of energy will still be based on the carbon fuels of the past,” Muttit said. “Dressed in a veneer of concern about climate change, in fact BP’s outlook is a public relations exercise, designed to boost fossil fuels and undermine public faith in clean alternatives.

“Meanwhile, it deflects responsibility to government or to coal companies, to distract from its own extraction of oil and gas. This is not a credible view of the future of energy.”

Predictions of renewable energy demand in 2035 have been revised upwards by BP, to 14% – growing by 6.6% annually. The Energy Outlook estimates that 34% of growth in energy consumption between 2014 and 2035 will be met by renewables.

The renewables figures presented by BP are someway short of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2C scenario – which itself has received heavy criticism – which estimates that low-carbon sources will provide a third of the energy supply by 2035.

Coal demand

BP has also adjusted its predictions for fossil fuel generation. In 2013, the firm claimed that fossil fuels would account for 86% of the world’s energy mix by 2035. A 7% decline to this year’s figure of 79% is due to the rise in nuclear and renewable energy – set to account for 21% of the energy mix by 2035 – BP says.

BP has revised coal demand figures, showing a 6% fall from last year’s figures. However the report sites that growing energy demand in China will lead to a heavy reliance on coal – despite the fact that China became the largest consumer of solar photovoltaic in 2014.

BP has predicted minimal change in transport energy sources, with oil set to remain dominant at 88%, virtually unchanged from last year – reiterating suggestions that the rise in EVs alone isn’t enough to curb emissions.

Commenting on the BP report, Carbon Tracker’s senior analyst Luke Sussams said: “BP’s energy outlook to 2035 appears to state the COP21 international climate change agreement will make little impact in suppressing future fossil fuel demand, which continues to meet more than 80% of global energy needs.

“As in previous years, BP’s outlook highlights key uncertainties such as lower economic growth or a faster shift to a low-carbon economy. But these considerations do not make it into its base case. We believe the base case does not adequately reflect the possible downside scenarios in the nine key demand assumptions highlighted in Carbon Tracker’s Lost in Transition report published late last year.”

Last month, fellow oil company ExxonMobil announced its own energy outlook, which stated that the share of the world’s electricity generated by coal would fall by 30% by 2040. Carbon emissions would also peak by 2030, before declining thereafter, ExxonMobil said.

Matt Mace

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