What Is the Energy Mix?

Updated on 07.24.2023
Middle School
Life and earth sciences

5 min read

To meet its energy needs, each country uses the types of energy available to it, in differing proportions. This is what we call the . While the figures vary significantly from one country to another, fossil fuels dominate the energy mix at the global level, accounting for over 80% of the total.

The term “energy mix” refers to the combination of the various sources used to meet energy needs in a given geographic region. It includes fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and ), and the many sources of (wood and other bioenergies, hydro, wind, solar and ). These primary energy sources are used, for example, for generating , providing fuel for transportation and heating and cooling residential and industrial buildings.

The composition of the energy mix varies greatly from one country or region to the next and can change significantly depending on the period.

Variables include:
  • The availability of usable resources domestically or the possibility of importing them.
  • The extent and type of energy needs to be met.
  • Policy choices determined by historical, economic, social, demographic, environmental and geopolitical factors. 

 

A Global Energy Mix Dominated by Fossil Fuels

85%,
The share of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) in the global energy mix in 2018.

These differences can be seen by comparing the global, European and French energy mixes, for example. 

Since the Industrial Revolution, society’s development has been largely driven by fossil fuels. Globally, the cumulative share of coal, oil and gas in the energy mix in 2018 was close to 85%, with hydro (6.8%), other renewables (4%) and nuclear (4.4%) trailing far behind.

 

In Europe, renewable energies (15.5%) and nuclear (10.3%) are more developed, but fossil fuels remain the dominant energy source (74.2%).

Looking at only France, the breakdown shows a completely different picture due to the strong presence of nuclear (38.5%). The proportion of renewables is below the European average at 10.4%, while coal makes up a negligible 3.4% of the total1.

Did You Know?
The energy mix refers to the various primary energy sources used in a given geographic region.

China, India and the United States

In China and India, coal represents almost 60% of the energy mix. Both countries are leading major drives to develop solar and wind power, but the needs of their rapidly growing economies mean that the share of these renewable energies remains low. For the same reason, they are also having great difficulty reducing the proportion of coal, which they have in abundance at low costs.

 

Historically, the United States has largely been powered by coal and oil. But coal consumption has decreased considerably over the last decade due to the boom in and renewable . The country has closed a third of its mines since the start of the century.

Energy Mix Versus Power Generation Mix

The energy mix should not be confused with the power generation mix (also known as the ). The power generation mix describes the breakdown of energy sources used specifically to generate electricity. For this reason, it does not take into account issues surrounding energy use in transportation and large segments of industry and housing.

Power generation mixes are therefore very different from the corresponding energy mixes. 

Taking the example of France, the share of nuclear in power generation was 71.7% in 2018. In the country’s overall energy mix, however, the percentage comes out at 38.5%. The shares of solar and wind, which are barely visible in the energy mix, start to become significant in the power generation mix.

It should also be noted that primary energy mix figures – which factor in each country’s consumption of all available energy sources, whether produced domestically or imported – do not match final energy consumption figures. This is because a fairly large portion of primary energy is lost in the process of converting it into .

 

Sources:

  1. French Sustainable Development Commission. Key Energy Figures, 2019 (in French)

 

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