This is a short guide outlining:
- the installed capacity of renewable energy
- the production/generation of renewable energy
- the consumption of renewable energy
We look at these aspects on a global, country and individual renewable energy source level.
Summary – Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption Of Renewable Energy In The World
- Renewable energy can be split into installed capacity (how much energy can be generated based on installed equipment), production/generation (how much energy is actually being generated), and consumption (how much energy of what is produced is actually used – infrastructure, connection to the power grid and other factors can determine how much energy is lost and used ultimately)
- There’s a few ways you can measure installed capacity, production and consumption of renewable energy…
- Installed capacity as a total gigawatt or terawatt amount
- Total production or consumption measured as total GWh produced or consumed
- Renewable energy production or consumption expressed as % of total generation or consumption
- Installed capacity, production or consumption by the individual renewable energy sources e.g. solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric etc.
- Renewable energy investment is different again from installed capacity, production and consumption
- China tends to lead all countries across most installed capacity, production and consumption/use statistics, followed by the US. It makes sense as China currently leads in terms of installed capacity of hydropower, solar PV, and wind
- Hydropower accounts for half the total renewable energy installed capacity globally, followed by wind and solar behind it
- Renewables make up 26% of global electricity, but only 10% of heating and cooling, and 3.3% of transport energy
- Hydropower accounts for the most renewable energy production followed by wind, and solar
- Modern renewables make up about 10.6% of global total renewable energy consumption
- China, the US, Germany, India, Japan, the UK and Brazil consume the most renewable energy
- Hydropower is the most consumed renewable energy source, followed by wind and solar
- Cities use a higher percentage of renewable electricity than countries. Already, there are at least 100 cities around the world using between 90 and 100 percent renewable electricity.
- As we note in our guide on renewable energy investment, as of 2018, fossil fuel subsidies can still exceed renewable investment in a given year, and CO2 levels and CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are still gradually increasing. So, apart from the benefits like potentially helping to reduce air pollution that renewables provide, if we want to address climate change and global warming as well – we probably aren’t in a position to be doing that right now. Ideally clean electricity and energy consumption will need to keep increasing, fossil fuel subsidies and consumption will need to keep decreasing, and CO2 levels will need to keep reducing. Renewables are slowly starting to make up a bigger % of electricity consumption, but that % needs to keep increasing, and heating and cooling as well as transport are primarily fossil fuel dominated right now (these sectors need to increasingly be powered by renewables or become more efficient over time to become cleaner).
- As vox.com notes: “As of 2017, fossil fuels were still providing about 80 percent of humanity’s energy, which is roughly what they’ve been providing for decades. Excluding traditional biomass … you’re left with about 13 percent plausibly climate-friendly energy … That 13 percent needs to get to 100 percent, or close to it, by 2050.”
*Note – the phrase ‘energy’ tends to include energy for heating and cooling, and transport, where as the phrase ‘electricity’ tends to be be energy just in the electricity sector itself.
Global Total Installed Capacity Of Renewable Energy
- Some 181 GW of new renewables capacity was installed in 2018; it now makes up more than one-third of global installed power capacity.
- … In 2018, the world had 1246GW of renewable power capacity [this number appears to omit hydropower though]
- At the end of 2018, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 2,351 GW
- Hydropower accounts for the largest share with an installed capacity of 1 172 GW – around half of the total. Wind and solar energy account for most of the remainder with capacities of 564 GW and 480 GW respectively. Other renewables included 121 GW of bioenergy, 13 GW of geothermal energy and 500 MW of marine energy (tide, wave and ocean energy).
- As of 2015 worldwide, more than half of all new electricity capacity installed was renewable.
Countries With The Highest Installed Capacity Of Renewable Energy
In 2018, countries and groups of countries with the highest installed capacities of renewable power were:
- China – 404GW
- EU-28 – 339GW
- US – 180GW
- Germany – 113GW
- India – 78GW
- Japan – 64GW
- UK – 42GW
These %’s appear to omit hydropower though.
Renewable energy capacity at the end of 2016:
- China – 545.25GW
- US – 214.7GW
- Brazil – 122.9GW
- Germany – 105.8GW
- Canada – 96.6GW
- India – 90.6GW
Global Installed Capacity Of Renewable Energy By Energy Source
At the end of 2018, installed capacity by renewable energy source worldwide was:
- Hydroelectricity – 50% (1172GW)
- Wind – 24%
- Solar – 20%
- Others – 6%
Recently, wind and solar have seen the biggest increases/growth in installed capacity. You can view more growth statistics for renewable energy in the Irena.org resource.
Global Renewable Energy Production For Total Energy
- Where renewables are 26 percent of global electricity, they represent less than 10 percent (renewable electricity less than 2 percent) of heating and cooling and just 3.3 percent (renewable electricity only 0.3 percent) of transportation energy
- Heating and cooling, at 51 percent of global energy use, mostly run on natural gas and oil.
- Transportation, at 32 percent of global energy use, mostly runs on gasoline and diesel.
Global Renewable Energy Production For Electricity
- [As of 2018, renewable energy makes up 26.2% of global electricity produced]
Global Renewable Energy Production By Energy Source
Of the above 26.2% global electricity production figure, the different renewable energy sources make up these %’s (that add up to 26.2%):
- Hydropower – 15.8%
- Wind – 5.5%
- Solar PV – 2.4%
- Bio Power – 2.2%
- Geothermal, CSP & Ocean Power – 0.4%
Which Countries Produce/Generate The Most Renewable Energy (As A % Of Total Energy)?
As a % of total electricity energy mix, you can see the countries that generate the most renewable energy electricity at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production_from_renewable_sources
In 2016, the countries that produced 90% or more of their electricity from renewables were:
- Albania – 100%
- Democratic Republic Of The Congo – 100%
- Iceland – 100%
- Paraguay – 100%
- Namibia – 99.3%
- Costa Rica – 97.7%
- Tajikistan – 97.5%
- Norway – 97.2%
- Uruguay – 96.5%
- Zambia – 95%
- Ethiopia – 93.6%
- Kenya – 90.7%
Which Renewable Energy Source Produces The Most Energy Worldwide?
From the above numbers, hydropower produces far more energy via electricity than any other renewable source right now (as of the latest 2018 figures).
Global Total Renewable Energy Consumption
At the end of 2017, estimated renewable share of total final energy consumption was:
- Fossil Fuels – 79.7%
- Modern Renewables – 10.6%
- Traditional Biomass – 7.5%
- Nuclear – 2.2%
- Globally, the world produced approximately 5877.19 TWh of modern renewable energy in 2016. This represents a 5 to 6-fold increase since the 1960s.
Countries That Consume The Most Renewable Energy
Leading countries based on renewable energy consumption in 2018 (in million metric tons of oil equivalent)
- China – 143.5
- US – 103.8
- Germany – 47.3
- India – 27.5
- Japan – 25.4
- UK – 23.9
- Brazil – 23.6
- Spain – 16
- Italy – 14.9
- France – 10.6
- Canada – 10.3
- Turkey – 8.5
- Australia – 7.2
- Sweden – 6.6
- South Korea – 5
- Between 2010 and 2014, renewable energy consumption of the top countries has effectively doubled from 168 million tons to 316 million tons of oil equivalent
Global Renewable Energy Consumption By Energy Source
At the end of 2016, Total renewable energy consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh) per year, was:
- Hydropower – 4,022.94TWh
- Wind – 959.53TWh
- Solar – 333.05TWh
- Other renewables – 561.67TWh
Which Renewable Energy Source Is Used The Most Worldwide?
From the above figures in 2016, hydropower is used the most by far.
Which Country Uses The Most Hydropower Energy?
2016 figures for hydropower consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), were:
- China (1162.77TWh)
- Canada (388.24 TWh)
- Chile (19.52TWh)
Which Country Uses The Most Wind Energy?
2016 figures for wind energy consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), were:
- China (241 TWh)
- US (228 TWh)
- Argentina (0.55 TWh)
Which Country Uses The Most Solar Energy?
China leads in both installed solar PV energy capacity, and solar PV energy consumption.
2016 figures for solar PV energy consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), were:
- China (66.2 TWh)
- US (56.79 TWh)
- South Africa
- Brazil (0.09TW)
Which Country Produces The Most Biofuel? (Bioethanol & Biodiesel)
Total biofuel production, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), in 2016, was:
- United States (9572.24 TWh)
- South Korea (47.03 TWh)
A Note About Cities vs Countries For Renewable Energy
- [Cities] use a higher percentage of renewable electricity than countries. Already, there are at least 100 cities around the world using between 90 and 100 percent renewable electricity.
What Impact Are Renewables Having On Carbon Dioxide Levels?
Through until 2018 and 2019, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, and CO2 levels in parts per million are still on the rise:
- https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/new-global-co2-emissions-numbers-are-they-re-not-good (shows a graph of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels year to year)
- https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/ (shows a graph of updated CO2 ppm in the atmosphere)
Short Term Forecast For Future Of Renewables
Over the next few years until around 2023, modern bioenergy is expected to grow.
Modern bioenergy technologies include liquid biofuels produced from bagasse and other plants; bio-refineries; biogas produced through anaerobic digestion of residues; wood pellet heating systems; and other technologies.
You can read more about the short term future for renewables at:
Longer Term Forecast For Future Of Renewables
You can read general energy outlooks for the United States and China in these guides, which includes a general forecast for renewables too: