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Where is power generated?

Dec. 06, 2023
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Electricity Mix

Explore data on where our electricity comes from, and how this is changing.

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Electricity is one of three components that make up total energy production. The other two are transport and heating.

As we see in more detail in this article, the breakdown of sources – coal, oil, gas, nuclear and renewables – is different in the electricity versus the energy mix. Generally, low-carbon sources (nuclear and renewables) account for a larger share in our electricity mix than our total energy mix.

This means it's important to distinguish between the two. In another page we provide the full breakdown of the Energy Mix. But in this article we focus on the Electricity Mix.

Where do we get our electricity from? Which countries have the cleanest electricity grids? In this article we look at the breakdown across the world.

Where does our electricity come from?

What sources make up our electricity mix? How much comes from coal, oil, gas, and how much from nuclear, hydropower, solar or wind?

In the interactive charts shown here we see the breakdown of the electricity mix by source.

The stacked area chart shows electricity production in absolute terms. It allows you see how these sources sum up. The line chart shows each source's share of the total, and gives a better perspective on how each is changing over time.

Globally we see that coal, followed by gas, is the largest source of electricity production. Of the low-carbon sources, hydropower and nuclear make the largest contribution; although wind and solar are growing quickly.

If we look at the electricity mix of particular countries we can see dramatic changes in over time.

Take the UK as an example: there we see a dramatic decline in the role of coal in its electricity mix. In the late 1980s, coal account for more than 60% of electricity production. By 2021 this had fallen to 2%.

In the charts here we see the breakdown of the electricity mix by country. First with the higher-level breakdown by fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables. Then with the specific breakdown by source, including coal, gas, oil, nuclear, bioenergy, hydro, solar, wind and other renewables (which include wave and tidal).

This is given in terms of per capita consumption.

How much of our electricity comes from low-carbon sources?

In the chart we see the percentage of global electricity production that comes from nuclear or renewable energy, such as solar, wind,  hydropower, wind and tidal and some biomass.

Globally, 37% of our electricity was low-carbon in 2019. More than one-third. The remaining two-thirds come from fossil fuels – mostly coal and gas.

This is more than double the share in the total energy mix, where nuclear and renewables only account for 15.7%. When people quote a high number for the share of low-carbon energy in the electricity mix we need to be aware of the fact that electricity is only part of the energy equation. The share in the total energy mix is much smaller.

Low-carbon electricity: how much comes from renewables and nuclear?

What is the breakdown of our electricity supply in terms of fossil fuels, renewable energy and nuclear power?

In 2019, almost two-thirds (63.3%) of global electricity came from fossil fuels. Of the 36% from low-carbon sources, renewables accounted for 26% and nuclear energy for 10%.

As we noted earlier, the relative contribution of fossil fuels and low-carbon electricity has been pretty stagnant for decades. In fact, in the early 2000s, fossil fuels even gained ground. Over this period, nuclear’s share declined whilst renewables grew. We see this in the chart. The progress made in renewables has been offset by a decline in nuclear energy; nuclear declined by almost as much as renewables gained.

Some countries get most of their electricity from low-carbon sources

Globally we get just over one-third of our electricity from low-carbon sources. But some countries get much more – some nearly all of it – from fossil-free sources.

In the interactive map shown we see this share across the world. Some countries get over 90% of their electricity from nuclear or renewables – Sweden, Norway, France, Paraguay, Iceland, and Nepal, among others.

Nearly all of these countries have one thing in common: they get a lot of electricity from hydropower and/or nuclear energy. Solar, wind and other renewable technologies are growing quickly and will hopefully account for a large share of electricity production in the future – but the countries who have a low-carbon electricity mix today have relied heavily on hydroelectric and nuclear power in recent years.

We must take these country-level examples and learn from them. In the years to come, accelerating the transition to clean electricity will become ever-more important as we electrify other parts of the energy system too (shifting to electric vehicles, for example). We will need to rely on low-carbon electricity, and lots of it.

Carbon intensity of electricity

Carbon intensity of electricity measures the amount of CO2 that is produced per unit of electricity. It is measured as the grams of CO2 produced per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Countries which get a large share of their electricity from low-carbon sources (renewables and nuclear) will have a lower carbon intensity.

This interactive map shows the carbon intensity of electricity.

Electricity production by source

Fossil fuels: what share of electricity comes from fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels are the sum of coal, oil and gas. Combined, they are the largest source of global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). We therefore need to transition away from them.

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas summed together) across the world. Oil accounts for only a small share of electricity production – most come from coal and gas. The share from coal and gas individually can be found in the sections below.

Coal: what share of electricity comes from coal?

Coal is currently the largest source of electricity globally. For many countries remains the dominant source. But, we also see that others have seen a massive shift away from coal in recent years – the UK is one such example.

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from coal across the world.

Gas: what share of electricity comes from gas?

Gas is now the second largest source of electricity production globally.

Its contribution is growing quickly in many countries as they substitute it for coal in the electricity mix. From a climate perspective, this transition is positive since gas typically emits less CO2 per unit of energy. But, we still ultimately want to shift away from gas towards low-carbon sources such as renewables and nuclear.

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from gas across the world.

Nuclear: what share of electricity comes from nuclear?

Nuclear has played a key role in low-carbon electricity production for decades. In some countries it is one of – if not, the single – largest source of electricity.

For example, France gets more than 70% of its electricity from nuclear power.

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from nuclear across the world.

By clicking on a given country you can see how this share has changed over time. In some countries we see a dramatic decline in nuclear's role as plants have been taken offline. Japan is an obvious example of this.

Renewables: what share of electricity comes from renewables?

'Renewables' combines multiple electricity sources, including hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and wave and tidal.

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from renewables (the sum of all renewable energy technologies) across the world.

The share of electricity we get from individual renewable technologies – solar, or wind, for example – are given in the sections below.

Hydropower: what share of electricity comes from hydropower?

Hydropower makes a large contribution to low-carbon electricity across the world. Globally it accounts for around 17% of production.

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from hydropower across the world.

Solar: what share of electricity comes from solar?

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from solar power across the world.

Wind: what share of electricity comes from wind?

This interactive map shows the share of electricity that comes from wind across the world.

Cite this work

Our articles and data visualizations rely on work from many different people and organizations. When citing this article, please also cite the underlying data sources. This article can be cited as:

Hannah Ritchie and Pablo Rosado (2020) - “Electricity Mix” Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/electricity-mix' [Online Resource]

BibTeX citation

@article{owid-electricity-mix,
    author = {Hannah Ritchie and Pablo Rosado},
    title = {Electricity Mix},
    journal = {Our World in Data},
    year = {2020},
    note = {https://ourworldindata.org/electricity-mix}
}

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Where is power generated?

Electricity Mix

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