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World electricity consumption
World electricity consumption is the total amount of electricity consumed by humanity per year. Electricity is generated in power stations since 1882 and consumption increases strongly since. The table lists the countries which consume most and how this electricity is generated. Finally scenarios for possible future development are described.
After the invention of the steam turbine in 1883 world electricity consumption could increase strongly.
An electric generator can be driven by
- a steam or gas turbine in a thermal power plant
- or a hydraulic turbine in a hydropower plant
- or a windturbine, stand-alone or in a farm.
The invention of the silicium PV cell in 1954 started electricity generation with solar panels, connected to a DC/AC convertor.
Energy sources for electricity generation are usually classified as
- fossil, using coal, lignite, petroleum and natural gas,
- nuclear, using uranium,
- renewable, using hydropower, biomass, wind and solar energy, among others.
Coal and lignite are the biggest energy source for electricity generation.
Renewable means from inexhaustible sources, with responsible management of nature.
On average, about 10% of the generated electricity is used internally by the power plants, 7% is lost in transmission and 83% is delivered to end users. The Total in the table includes the amount consumed by the power plants.
Electricity consumption is measured in TWh/a (Terawatt-hours per year, 1 TWh = 109 kWh). The table lists the top 37 electricity consuming countries, which use 19,000 TWh/a. i.e. 90% of the consumption of all more than 190 countries. The data are of 2012. The last column contains the number of millions of inhabitants.
Consumption per head
Total consumption (2nd column) divided by number of inhabitants (last column) gives a country's consumption per head. In W-Europe this is between 5 and 8 MWh/a. (1 MWh equals 1000 kWh.) In Scandinavia, USA, Canada, Taiwan and S-Korea it is much more, in develloping countries much less. The worlds average is 3 MWh/a. A very low consumption per head, as in Indonesia, means that many inhabitants are not connected to the electricity grid. The same applies to countries with large populations like Bangladesh and Nigeria that are absent in the table.
From 2012 to 2014 worldwide electricity consumption increased 5%. Nuclear and fossil generated electricity rose 3%, renewable electricity 12%.
In China not only solar and wind increased fast, 81%, but also nuclear, 36% in this period.
In all scenarios, increasing efficiency will result in less electricity needed for a given demand of power and light. But demand will increase strongly on account of
- growing economy in developing countries and
- electrification of transport and heating. Combustion engines are replaced by electric drive and for heating less gas and oil, and more electricity is used, if possible with heat pumps.
As transport and heating become more climate-friendly, the environmental effect of energy consumption will be more determined by electricity. This is mainly supplied by burning fossil fuel which disturbs the natural carbon dioxide cycle. The scenarios arrive at very different results for the environment.
The International Energy Agency expects revision of subsidy for fossil fuel which amounted to 550 billion dollar in 2013, more than four times renewable energy subsidy. In this scenario almost half of the increase in 2040 of electricity consumption is covered by more than 80% growth of renewable energy. Many new nuclear plants will be constructed, mainly to replace old ones. The nuclear part of electricity generation will not increase much, from 11 to 12%. The renewable part goes up much, from 21 to 33%. That is not enough. The IEA warns that in order to restrict global warming to 2ºC, the carbon dioxide emission must not exceed 1000 gigaton (Gt) from 2014. This limit is reached in 2040 and emission will not drop to zero then.
The World Energy Council sees world electricity consumption increasing to more than 40,000 TWh/a in 2040. The fossil part of generation depends on energy policy. It can stay around 70% in the so-called Jazz scenario where countries rather independently "improvise" but it can also decrease to around 40% in the Symphony scenario if countries work "orchestrated" for more climate friendly policy. Carbon dioxide emission, 32 Gt/a in 2012, will increase to 46 Gt/a in Jazz but decrease to 26 Gt/a in Symphony. Accordingly, until 2040 the renewable part of generation will stay at about 20% in Jazz but increase to about 45% in Symphony.