How much renewable energy does the world use?
Renewable electricity generation has become a larger focus for many countries around the world. With the COP26 conference coming up in Glasgow in November 2021, we thought it was time to look at how much renewable energy certain countries create and use.
How much renewable energy does the UK use?
In 2020, the total amount of electricity generated across all sources (renewable and fossil fuel) was 312.8 terawatt hours (TWh) this amount will only increase as more households invest in electric heating sources and electric cars. To put that into perspective, the smallest amount of electricity is measured in watts. One kilowatt is equivalent to one thousand watts, one gigawatt is one billion watts and so one terawatt is equal to an enormous one trillion watts. Therefore, 312.8 TWh is 312.8 trillion watts.
Of this figure, however, 134.3 TWh was generated completely from renewable sources, which means in 2020, the UK’s total renewable electricity generation was 42.9%. This meant, for the first time ever, renewable electricity generation was higher than fossil fuel electricity generation. Gas and coal plants combined accounted for 41% of electricity generation in 2020, so it’s a small margin, but certainly a positive one.
We can break this down further to see exactly how the energy was generated. Gas power plants are still creating the largest percentage of electricity at 37%, however this percentage was a five-year low, meaning the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity is a decreasing practice. Wind farms were the second biggest generator of electricity, providing almost one quarter to the UK. The next most popular energy sources are:
- Bioenergy - 12%
- Solar - 4%
- Hydropower - 2%
- Coal - 2%
How much renewable energy does the US use?
The US is still slightly behind the UK when it comes to using renewable sources to generate energy, however it is a much larger country and requires a considerably higher amount of electricity.
In 2020, the US generated around 4,000 TWh of electricity (compared to the UK’s 312.8). As we’ve seen above, the UK managed to create enough renewable electricity to cover almost 43% of our total usage. However, in 2020, renewable energy sources in the US accounted for around 20% of total electricity generation. Of the 4,000 TWh generated, around 60% came from fossil fuels, 20% from nuclear energy and 20% from renewables. This means the US used around 800 TWh of renewable-generated electricity in 2020.
Of these renewables, wind produced the most electricity at a total of 8% (338 TWh), closely followed by hydropower at 7.2% (291 TWh). After this comes:
- Photovoltaic solar - 2.2%
- Biomass - 1.4%
- Geothermal - 0.4%
While these percentages seem small, it’s worth remembering that the UK generated a total of 134 TWh of electricity from renewable sources and that this covered almost 43% of our usage. The US generated almost triple this in wind power alone (338 TWh), but their percentages are much smaller because they require so much more electricity than the UK.
Which country uses renewable energy the most?
- Norway - 56%
A staggering 56% of Norway’s total electricity is made from renewables, predominantly hydropower (45%). Hydropower was initially introduced as early as 1892, which is why the country has made such a headway with this method of electricity generation.
Hydro is so successful in Norway because of the sheer amount of water within the country, combined with steep valleys and mountains. Increased rainfall due to climate change means this country can create even more energy, too, and puts them right at the top of our list.
The remaining 44% of electricity comes from fossil fuels and the country doesn’t use nuclear power at all.
- Brazil - 46%
Brazil comes in second on our list because they generate a huge 46% of electricity through renewables. This country is known for its use of biofuels and waste, which accounts for 32.1% of their total electricity usage. It is the second largest producer of ethanol fuel (the US is the first) and their sugarcane ethanol is used to power around 27 million cars.
- New Zealand - 42%
Next up is New Zealand, with a total usage of 42% renewable energy. Around 25% comes predominantly from wind and solar power, partly because of the almost constant westerly winds that blow into the country. Being a sunny country as well as a windy one means solar is a particularly popular method of generating electricity, too.
- Denmark/Sweden - 41%
Denmark and Sweden are next on the list and they tie, with both countries creating around 41% of their total electricity from renewable sources. However, Sweden relies heavily on nuclear power, with this method accounting for around 35% of their total electricity supply, whereas Denmark creates no electricity in this way. Instead, Denmark has a higher percentage of electricity created by fossil fuels (59%).