The Race for Clean Energy
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Last year, on a global basis, more net power generating capacity was added through renewable sources than via all other power sources combined.
Which countries are leading this charge, and what power sources are being adopted the fastest?
Today’s infographic comes to us Raconteur, and it breaks down various metrics around energy investment. The graphic looks at absolute and per capita power consumption by countries, as well as dollars being invested into each particular type of green energy.
The two countries that lead the pack in absolute terms are China and the United States. In 2016, China consumed the equivalent of 349.2 million tonnes of oil in renewable energy, while the U.S. was at 143 million tonnes.
However, these numbers are very skewed by the large populations of these countries. In percentage terms, China only gets 11.4% of its primary energy from renewables, while the U.S. gets 6.3% of its mix from sources like solar and wind.
On a per capita basis, major economies leading the world include countries like Norway, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, and Austria – all of these countries get about 30% or more of their primary energy from renewables. That said, it is also worth noting that hydropower makes up a large degree of the energy mixes for many of these places.
2016 was a landmark year for clean energy, with net power capacity additions for renewables topping the list:
|Power Type||Net Global Capacity Added (2016)|
|Renewable (excl. large hydro)||138 GW|
|Large hydro||15 GW|
|Other flexible capacity||5 GW|
Importantly, more green power is being added at lower costs. Below, you can see that the level of investment is actually falling, as utilities get more “bang for the buck” on new capacity added.
Here is the overall investment for each renewable category in 2016:
|Renewable source||Global New Investment (Billions)||Change|
|Biomass & waste-to-energy||$6.8||0%|
In 2016, investment in clean energy fell by 18% – however, 138 GW of new power capacity came online from renewable sources (excl. large hydro), which is 11 GW more than in the previous year.
If costs continue to fall, it will mean more accessible clean energy for any country that wants it – and cost efficiency will also make the race to add capacity via renewables much more meaningful and sustainable in the long term.
Visualizing the Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production
How much oil, coal, and natural gas do we extract each year? See the scale of annual fossil fuel production in perspective.
The Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production
Fossil fuels have been our predominant source of energy for over a century, and the world still extracts and consumes a colossal amount of coal, oil, and gas every year.
This infographic visualizes the volume of global fossil fuel production in 2021 using data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
The Facts on Fossil Fuels
In 2021, the world produced around 8 billion tonnes of coal, 4 billion tonnes of oil, and over 4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
Most of the coal is used to generate electricity for our homes and offices and has a key role in steel production. Similarly, natural gas is a large source of electricity and heat for industries and buildings. Oil is primarily used by the transportation sector, in addition to petrochemical manufacturing, heating, and other end uses.
Here’s a full breakdown of coal, oil, and gas production by country in 2021.
If all the coal produced in 2021 were arranged in a cube, it would measure 2,141 meters (2.1km) on each side—more than 2.5 times the height of the world’s tallest building.
China produced 50% or more than four billion tonnes of the world’s coal in 2021. It’s also the largest consumer of coal, accounting for 54% of coal consumption in 2021.
|Rank||Country||2021 Coal Production|
|% of Total|
|#7||🇿🇦 South Africa||234.5||3%|
India is both the second largest producer and consumer of coal. Meanwhile, Indonesia is the world’s largest coal exporter, followed by Australia.
In the West, U.S. coal production was down 47% as compared to 2011 levels, and the descent is likely to continue with the clean energy transition.
In 2021, the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were the three largest crude oil producers, respectively.
|Rank||Country||2021 Oil Production |
|% of Total|
|#3||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||515.0||12%|
OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, made up the largest share of production at 35% or 1.5 billion tonnes of oil.
U.S. oil production has seen significant growth since 2010. In 2021, the U.S. extracted 711 million tonnes of oil, more than double the 333 million tonnes produced in 2010.
Natural Gas Production
The world produced 4,036 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2021. The above graphic converts that into an equivalent of seven billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to visualize it on the same scale as oil and gas.
Here are the top 10 producers of natural gas in 2021:
|Rank||Country||2021 Natural Gas Production |
|% of Total|
|#8||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||117.3||3%|
The U.S. was the largest producer, with Texas and Pennsylvania accounting for 47% of its gas production. The U.S. electric power and industrial sectors account for around one-third of domestic natural gas consumption.
Russia, the next-largest producer, was the biggest exporter of gas in 2021. It exported an estimated 210 billion cubic meters of natural gas via pipelines to Europe and China. Around 80% of Russian natural gas comes from operations in the Arctic region.
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