Renewable energy

Renewable energy includes energy derived from natural processes that do not involve the consumption of exhaustible resources such as fossil fuels and uranium

Renewables in this review

Hydroelectricity, wind and wave power, solar and geothermal energy and combustible renewables and renewable waste (landfill gas, waste incineration, solid biomass and liquid biofuels) are the constituents of renewable energy.

The definition of primary energy in the Statistical Review confines itself to renewable fuels (commercial renewables) used for power generation or transport fuels. It excludes renewable sources of heat. Consumption of hydroelectricity has been reported in the Statistical Review for many years, and biofuels have been included in oil consumption. The Review includes additional tables on the consumption of renewable sources of electricity other than hydroelectricity and on the production of biofuels.

Electricity generation from renewables

The coverage and quality of data relating to non-hydro renewable power is improving steadily, especially where countries have adopted policy targets for renewables. It is now possible to provide a reasonable estimate for total power generated from renewable sources. This is based as far as possible on primary national sources, supplemented as necessary by data from secondary sources, such as Eurostat, the US Energy Information Administration, and the International Energy Agency. The Statistical Review database stretches back to 1965, but any data before 1990 should be treated with caution due to major breaks in data series. (Fortunately, the numbers before 1990 are generally very small, and too small to affect primary energy aggregates).

The Statistical Review collects data on power generated in TWh, and converts this to Mtoe on the same basis as hydroelectricity and nuclear power (i.e. on the basis of thermal equivalency assuming 38% conversion efficiency in a modern thermal power station).

Despite high growth rates, renewable energy still represents only a small fraction of today’s global energy consumption. Renewable electricity generation (excluding hydro), is estimated to account for nearly 8% of global electricity generation. Renewables do, however, play a significant role in the growth of electricity, contributing almost 40% of the growth in global power generation in 2016.

At the individual country level these sources are already playing an important role in some countries. Denmark leads, with 59% of power coming from renewables. Among the larger EU economies, the renewables share is 26% in Germany, 25% in Spain, and 23% in both Italy and the UK.

The rapid growth of renewable power generation continued in 2016, with an increase of 14%. In volume terms, the largest increase in 2016 was in China, followed by the US; with Japan, India and Brazil making up the rest of the top five.

The Statistical Review provides further information in the form of consumption tables for solar, wind, and other renewables, and capacity tables for wind, solar and geothermal power.

Related content