energy-sources

What Energy Sources Power the World?

There are many types of maps out there, but one of the most telling ones is a simple satellite image of the Earth at night.

On these powerful images, the darkness is a blank canvas for the bright city lights that represent the vast extent of human geography. The bright spots help us understand the distribution of population, as well as what areas of the world are generally wealthier and more urban. Meanwhile, the big dark spots – such as over the wilderness in northern Canada, the Amazon basin, or in Niger – show areas that are not densely populated or more rural.

Here’s one image based on this principle. It comes from NASA, and is a composite made from 400 separate satellite images from 2012:

Satellite composite image of Earth

How Are These Lights Powered?

But what if we could differentiate, by “shutting off” lights that are powered by certain electricity sources?

Today’s visualizations come from a nifty interactive website put together by GoCompare.com, and they breakdown the world’s electricity by source: fossil fuels, renewables, or nuclear fission.

Fossil Fuels

To start, here are the places on Earth that are powered by fossil fuels.

(Click image to see larger version)
Fossil Fuels only

Globally, fossil fuels represent about two-thirds of electricity usage. It’s also worth noting that fossil fuels also make up the majority of non-electrical sources needed for things like automobiles, aircraft, and ships, which are not shown on the map.

For further interest, we have previously shown the evolution over time of total U.S. energy usage, as well as a detailed breakdown of current U.S. usage – both which are still dominated by fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal.

Nuclear Only

Here are the places on Earth powered by nuclear fission.

(Click image to see larger version)
Nuclear only

Nuclear makes up about 10% of all global electricity usage – and France is the world’s most reliant country, getting about 74% of its power mix from nuclear. Also noteworthy is Japan, which has switched its major electrical source from nuclear to fossil fuels since the Fukushima incident in 2011.

Nuclear is a major source of energy in the rest of Europe as well.

Belgium (51%), Sweden (43%), Hungary (51%), Slovakia (55%), Czech Republic (35%), Slovenia (33%), Ukraine (43%), and Finland (33%) all draw significant amounts of their electricity from nuclear reactors.

Renewables

Last, but not least, are renewables.

(Click image to see larger version)
Renewables only

It’s important to remember here that hydroelectricity is the largest renewable energy source by far, and that countries like Canada and Brazil rely on hydro extensively.

Outside of hydro, Italy is a leader in solar generation (6% of all electricity). Meanwhile, just eight countries host over 80% of all installed wind power: France, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, India, Germany, USA, and China.

Finally, it’s worth noting that there are four smaller countries that get all, or nearly all, of their electricity from renewable sources. Those include Iceland (72% hydro, 28% geothermal), Albania (100% hydro), Paraguay (100% hydro), and Norway (97% hydro, 2% fossil fuels, and 1% other).

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