In 2022, the globe created 29,165.2 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, a 2.3% increase over the previous year.
In this graphic, we examine statistics from the most recent Statistical Review of World Energy and speculate on what will power the world in 2022.
Coal is still the king
Natural gas came in second with 22.7% of the world’s power output in 2022, and hydropower came in third with 14.9%.
Only three countries consume more than three-quarters of the world’s total coal-generated electricity. China consumes 53.3% of the world’s coal, with India coming in second at 13.6% and the United States coming in third at 8.9%.
Coal combustion is the world’s single largest source of CO2 emissions, accounting for electricity, metallurgy, and cement manufacture. Nonetheless, its use in power generation has increased by 91.2% since 1997, when the first global climate agreement was signed in Kyoto, Japan.
Why does electricity matter?
With the rise of electric vehicles and heat pumps, electricity is playing an increasingly important role in the transportation and heating sectors of modern society. Despite being the world’s greatest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, the power industry is at the forefront of the drive toward zero emissions as a result of its rapid adoption of renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
What role does electricity play in green energy transitions?
Climate change mitigation initiatives are driving the rapid electrification of many end uses, including transportation and industry, which has resulted in a significant increase in power demand and the requirement to produce as much of it as is practical from renewable sources. Despite the fact that unchecked fossil fuels still account for more than 60% of total global electricity generation, the result is a tremendous restructuring of power networks worldwide.
Why does it affect energy security?
Electricity security and affordability have risen to the top of the political agenda in the wake of the present global energy crisis, with renewable solutions being given preference. The unpredictability of solar and wind power necessitates a variety of backup production choices and smarter, more interconnected grids. More legislative action is required to ensure that fast electrification is accompanied by rapid deployment of low-carbon energy and resilient grids.
Renewable Energy is on the Rise
However, even as non-renewables bask in the sun, their days may be numbered.
In 2022, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal will produce 14.4% of all power, with significant advancements in solar and wind driving an astounding annual growth rate of 14.7%. Non-renewables, on the other hand, only managed a pitiful 0.4%.
The writers of the Statistical Review exclude hydropower from their renewable calculations, despite the fact that many others, like the International Energy Agency, see it as a “well-established renewable power technology.”
With hydroelectric moving into the renewable column, it will account for more than 29.3% of all electricity generated in 2022, with a 7.4% annual growth rate.
The transformation of mechanical energy into electrical energy does not require much effort. While today’s power plants are undoubtedly feats of engineering, they are fundamentally similar to the original generator, which Michael Faraday developed in 1831.
Coal fueled the first industrial revolution but warmed the world in the process; wind is free and clean but unreliable; and nuclear fission reliably delivers emission-free electricity but creates radioactive waste, so obtaining the mechanical energy is where things become complex.
Resolving these contradictions is not academic; next year’s report might be a critical test of the world’s commitment to a clean energy future as temperatures soar around the globe this summer.