Electricity Generation from Renewable Energy

Electricity Generation from Renewable Energy

Use the MapMaker Interactive to find out which countries are getting their electricity from renewable sources of energy and how they are doing it.

Grades

7 - 12+

Subjects

Earth Science, Geography, Human Geography

Renewable energy is energy that comes from sources that replenish themselves over short periods of time. For the most part, renewable energy sources also provide clean energy, or energy that emits few greenhouse gases or pollutants. For this reason, many policy experts and scientists advocate renewable energy sources over traditional fossil fuels. The difficulty is achieving the technology, infrastructure, and political support to make this transition.

The five renewable energy sources highlighted in this map series are the five largest worldwide. Hydroelectric energy is by far the most prevalent, accounting for 83% of the world's electricity generation from renewable sources. This is most likely because the requisite technology to generate electricity by harnessing the flow of water has been around the longest, dating back to the early 20th century. Wind energy is the next largest, at just over 7% of the electricity generated from renewable sources, followed by biowaste and biomass energy (7%), geothermal energy (2%), and solar, tidal, and wave energy (less than 1%).

This map series shows electricity generation from renewable energy sources in billion kilowatt-hours. The first map shows each country's total electricity generation from all renewable energy sources averaged over the years 2006-2010. The following maps show the same figure broken down by renewable energy type. The data come from the United States Energy Information Administration.

Fast Fact

  • Antarctica—the windiest place on Earth—produces much of the electricity that powers its various research bases from wind farms. The southernmost one, built in 2010, is located on Ross Island at New Zealand's Scott Base. There, wind turbines are set to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,227 metric tons (1,242 tons) per year.

Fast Fact

  • Between 2006 and 2009, China nearly doubled its electricity generation from renewable energy sources. In 2006, it generated 437 billion kilowatt hours, and in 2010 it generated 770 billion kilowatt hours, the most of any single country in the world and about 5% of its total electricity generation. 93% of China's renewable energy comes from hydroelectric power, and it produces the most hydroelectricity of any country in the world. China's hydroelectric power alone could power the United Kingdom for two years.

Fast Fact

  • Germany produces the most electricity from solar, tidal, and wave energy of any country in the world, and is producing more every day. Between 2006 and 2010, it increased its production by over 300%, and has continued to increase its capacity since. Germany is especially invested in solar energy. Despite leading the world in solar capacity, Germany only got 2% of its overall electricity from solar in 2010.

Fast Fact

  • While the United States leads the world in overall geothermal energy production, the Philippines produces about twice as much per capita. The country has seven geothermal power plants on four different islands, which together account for 17% of the country's electricity generation. Its position in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" makes it an ideal setting for harnessing geothermal energy and many more sites are currently in development.

Fast Fact

  • The United States is the worlds largest producer of biofuels. Biomass was the country's second largest source of renewable energy (after hydroelectric) until 2008, when it was surpassed by wind. In 2010, biomass made up about 7% of the country's electricity generation from renewable energy. Because biomass energy comes from any usable organic matter, it is available almost anywhere. In the United States, biomass energy most often comes from wood, wood waste, crops like corn, and from municipal solid waste.
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Writer
Ryan Schleeter,
Editors
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Sean P. O'Connor, BioBlitz Education Consultant,
Factchecker
David Knoppers, National Geographic Society,
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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