End-use energy prices are spiking now more than ever. According to a weighted index of energy prices provided by the World Bank, the price index of energy is expected to reach 65.2 U.S. dollars* compared to 2005 prices. Oil prices, in particular, have increased very sharply over the last two decades. In 2016, the annual average price of Brent crude oil reached a low price of 43.67 U.S. dollars per barrel, a significant decrease from around 111.63 U.S. dollars per barrel in 2012. This trend also manifested itself on a domestic scale, with the average consumer price for heating oil in the U.S. reaching 2.48 U.S. dollars per gallon in the winter between 2016 and 2017.
Coal prices have undergone a similar trend. Despite a brief downturn following the global financial crisis in 2008, the price of thermal coal peaked and has since dropped significantly since the recession, standing at around 85 U.S. dollars per metric ton in 2016. Due to its importance in the electric power sector, rising coal prices are expected to drive electricity prices higher over the long-term. Residential electricity prices in the U.S. are projected to grow by another 2.3 percent by 2018, having already seen an increase every year since 2003.
While European natural gas prices are also on the rise, the price of U.S. natural gas is expected to see a further increase, rising above previous prices. Therefore, it is little surprising that natural gas end user prices are highest in European countries, including Sweden, Finland and Germany. However, this trend is set to change in the future with a projected decline in European gas price up until 2020 being countered by a projected gradual increase in the U.S. market. The U.S. prices look set to almost double by 2025 from the value in 2016, but they will still remain less than the price of natural gas in Europe.
This overall upward trend in energy prices across the globe can be attributed to the rapid economic development - combined with the growing thirst for energy - of large nations such as China and India, as well as the consistently high energy use in industrialized nations. This development will strain the world’s ability to meet the yearly rise in energy demand, which is currently projected at some 1.6 percent a year until 2030, meaning that commodities such as oil and gas will become even more costly.
* real 2010 U.S. dollars (constant dollars, reflecting buying power relative to 2010)
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