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Feature Reports

Renewable Energy Producers and Consumers

© PROEHL STEVE / SUNPOWER CORP

Renewable energy, provided by the sun, wind, water, the Earth’s heat or organic matter, accounted for roughly a fifth of global electricity production in 2012. These energy sources are considered inexhaustible, unlike fossil fuels, which are being depleted. Renewable energies can meet some energy needs — heat, electricity and fuel — and have a smaller environmental footprint.  

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Featured Figures

Hydropower Consumption

Hydropower is produced by damming water. It is generally consumed locally. It is the leading source of renewable energyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale... in the world, accounting for 19% of global powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... generation in 2013. It is also one of the most evenly distributed sources of renewable energy. 

Ocean energy is an underused source of energy, which is set to grow in the coming years as research and development leads to advances. 

Worldwide, hydropower accounted for 80% of renewable electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... production and 16% of total electricity generation in 2012.

Hydroelectricity consumption increased by 4.8% in 2013, led by China, which became the leading producer of hydroelectricity in 2005. It has since consolidated its position by commissioning the world’s largest dam, Three Gorges on the Yangtze River.

The second-largest consumer of hydropower is Brazil, which used 415 TWh in 2013. In Brazil, as in other emerging economies, environmental and social issues such as biodiversityRefers to the natural diversity of living organisms. It can be measured through the study of species, genes and ecosystems. and the displacement of communities may impede the launch of new megaprojects.

In OECDFounded in 1960, the OECD promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world... countries, which consume 37.3% of global hydropower the development potential has largely been realized. 

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With 41% more installed capacityThe power generation capacity of a particular plant. It is usually expressed in megawatts (or sometimes even gigawatts)... added, the pace of growth of photovoltaic solar was as robust in 2013 as in 2012. The geographical distribution of installed capacity is changing: Europe's share slipped from 59% in 2012 to 57% in 2013, while that of the Asia-Pacific region increased from 17% in 2010 to 30% in 2013. In China, photovoltaic solar capacity doubled in 2012.

Germany, a solar energy pioneer, still has the highest photovoltaic solar installed capacity, which in 2012 accounted for close to 5.5% of the total powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... generated in the country. China was ranked second in 2013, with 18.3 GW of installed capacity, followed closely by Italy with 17.6 GW.

China and Japan, whose governments are actively promoting solar energy, added 11.3 GW and 6.9 GW respectively to their photovoltaic solar capacity in 2013. Asia is therefore set to make a significant contribution to the development of this sector in the coming years.

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Concentrated solar powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... is growing significantly, but still only accounts for 0.7% of the global energy mixThe range of energy sources of a region..

In 2012, the market continued to stabilize across the European Union. Total European capacity rose by 14.8% in 2013, reaching a total capacity of 79.6 GWth. Growth in concentrated solar power has slowed: from 3.36 GWth of additional capacity in 2008 to 2.1 GWth in 2012. After the financial crisis in 2008, there has been little investment in building new plants or upgrading older ones. Reduced government incentives have also contributed to the market slowdown.

Germany alone has 40% of the installed concentrated solar power capacity in Europe, followed by Italy. Poland, which started to develop this energy source later, stands out in Europe for the strong growth in its concentrated solar power capacity, with a high pace of growth in installing this type of plant — 19% in 2012 and 23% in 2013.

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The 12% increase in global installed wind powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... capacity in 2013 demonstrates the vitality of this sector, which is present in Europe, North America and Asia. A total of 35 GW of capacity was added in 2013, six times higher than in 2002.

In 2013, Asia installed the most new capacity (18 GW), followed by Europe (12 GW), North America (7 GW), and Latin America and the Caribbean (4 GW).

In 2012, China became the country with the biggest installed wind power capacity, ahead of the United States, Germany, Spain and India. With 91 GW, it accounts for a quarter of global capacity. 

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Global installed wind powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... capacity has been rising steadily for 15 years. The European Union developed wind farms early on and is now the region with the highest installed capacityThe power generation capacity of a particular plant. It is usually expressed in megawatts (or sometimes even gigawatts)... worldwide (118 GW). Since 2004, wind power capacity in North America and Asia has been growing rapidly, ensuring that global wind power capacity is more evenly distributed among Europe, the United States and Asia.

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GeothermalDescribes the technology used to tap subsurface heat to produce energy... energy is somewhat different from other renewable energyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale... sources. Operating costs are low, making it attractive for powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... and heatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter... production in emerging economies.

Geothermal power is used in a small number of countries with the right geological conditions. Active volcanic regions are particularly suitable, which is why in France geothermal resources are found in overseas departments. The United States has almost 30% of global installed capacityThe power generation capacity of a particular plant. It is usually expressed in megawatts (or sometimes even gigawatts)..., followed by the Philippines, Indonesia, Italy and Mexico.

In 2013, an additional 348 MW were installed worldwide, including 112 MW in Turkey, 86 MW in New Zealand, and 36 MW in Kenya.

In Europe, net geothermal power capacity remained stable in 2011, but gross output of electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... rose by 5.7%. In 2012, more than a quarter (27.7%) of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in Italy was geothermal sourced.

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BiomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... refers to any organic plant or animal matter that can be used to produce energy. Biomass breaks down into liquid, oil and solid, the latest being by far the oldest source of energy used by humankind. Primarily derived from wood in the form of logs, pellets and waste, solid biomass is used today to produce heatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter... and electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor.... Consumption of solid biomass rose moderately in Europe as a whole between 2012 and 2013, with a very noticeable increase of 12% in France. Public policy in France set ambitious targets for biomass in both industrial heating and domestic systems, which are expected to equip nine million households in 2020 versus nearly seven million in 2014.

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The production of electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... from solid biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... rose by only 1.78% in Europe between 2012 and 2013. The United Kingdom, however, recorded a very strong 51% increase, moving ahead of Sweden and Poland and almost catching up with heavyweights Germany and Finland.  Solid biomass – primarily wood logs, pellets and waste – is traded within the European Union or with the United States, Canada and Russia.

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Household, industrial and agricultural waste can be transformed into biogasA product of the methanation (anaerobic digestion) of organic waste... (essentially methaneThe main component of natural gas deposits and oil deposit gas caps. Methane is produced naturally by landfills...) by breaking down the organic matter through a process known as methanization.  Biogas can be used to produce electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... and heatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter.... Once purified, it can also be injected into the natural gas distribution network. Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy are by far the largest producers of biogas in Europe. In 2013, Italy increased its production by more than 50% from the previous year.  France's output rose by more than 10% during the same period, on a par with the European Union as a whole.

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