By a wide margin, the world leader in renewable energy is the United States

July 30, 2012

The BP statistical energy abstract for 2012 is out.  I will have more to say about this in the days ahead, but I wanted to point out a key fact from the data tables.   In 2011, the world consumed 194.8 million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE) of non-hydropower renewable energy.  That marked a 17.7% increase over 2010.   The largest consumer of renewable energy – by far – was the United States, which consumed 45.3 MTOE, a 16.5% increase over 2010.  US consumption of renewable energy represents over 23% of the global total and is nearly twice that of the nearest competitor (Germany, 23.2 MTOE; China is the third largest consumer at 17.7).

This is consumption, not production.  I will have more detailed analysis of production later.  For now, I will point out that while Germany dominates the world in installed solar power capacity, accounting for 35.8% of the global total, the US is fourth in solar capacity (6.3% of total).  China leads the world in installed wind capacity at 26.1%, the US is second at 19.7%.  The US dominates in geothermal, 28.3% of world total where both China and Germany are negligible (less than 1% each), and in biofuels with 48% of the world total; again, Germany and China are less than 5% each.

Each of the three leading nations has a different approach to renewables – in Germany, there is a relatively even mix between wind and solar electricity generation.  In China, wind dominates.  In the US, biofuels dominates.

More on this later.


One comment

  1. […] Earlier this week, I pointed out some data from the 2012 BP Statistical Energy Abstract that show the US is by far the world leader in renewable energy.  Although the US is among the top producers and consumers of both wind and solar power, it owes its presence at the top primarily to its dominance in biofuels.   The US is also the world leader in geothermal energy; however, geothermal is a tiny segment in the overall energy mix both globally and in the US.  There are two limiting factors to expansion of geothermal:  First, geothermal power is spatially fixed – electricity generation plants are built on geothermal sites and the electricity is used locally.  Second, although there are “hot rocks” all over the globe, at present, geothermal sites are only useful when there is hot water present – it is the hot water that is used to generate power.  Drilling sites that turn out to be dry – or productive sites that lose their water and go dry over time – are wastes of millions of dollars and a disincentive to new investment. […]

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