World-Watching: Global Energy Tracker

[from the Council on Foreign Relations]

by Benn Steil and Benjamin Della Rocca

The Global Energy Tracker allows you to gauge trends in energy use across the globe through time.

The charts on the tracker page compile data on energy-consumption trends in seventy-nine countries going back to 1990. Each chart shows how much energy a given country consumes from nine different sources.

The charts display each country’s consumption data for each energy source by the amount of exajoules consumed, by exajoules consumed per capita, and as a share of that country’s total energy consumption. (Exajoules are a measure of energy; one exajoule is roughly equivalent to California’s annual electricity use.)

As the legend indicates, five energy sources covered by the trackercoal, oil, natural gas, biofuels, and other (unclassified)—emit high levels of carbon dioxide. Four others—solar, wind, nuclear, and hydroelectric—are low-carbon emitters.

Together, the charts reveal significant trends in global energy usage. They show, for example, that high-carbon energy sources—especially oil—are the world’s dominant source of power. On average, 83 percent of tracker countries’ energy comes from high-carbon sources, and 37 percent specifically from oil.

Low-carbon sources, however, are on the rise, particularly in developed countries. Since 2010, the United States’ low-carbon consumption share climbed from 12 to 16 percent, the United Kingdom’s from 10 to 19 percent, and Germany’s from 14 to 19 percent. China, the world’s largest energy consumer, saw its low-carbon share rise from 9 to 15 percent. Rapid cost declines for low-carbon sources such as wind and solar, beneficiaries of technological innovation, explain much of the change. Still, low-carbon power’s share has actually declined in some rich countries, such as Japan—where it has fallen from 18 to 11 percent.

Some tracker countries rely highly on low-carbon energy. Twenty-five percent of Canada’s energy and 29 percent of Brazil’s, for example, comes from hydroelectric—compared with 9 percent for tracker countries on average. France derives over a third of its energy from nuclear. Other countries remain heavy users of higher-carbon sources. China derives 56 percent of its power from coal—although that figure is down from 70 percent a decade ago.

View the Global Energy Tracker.