The world has begun an ongoing battle to offset the carbon footprint and preserve the planet for future generations—as well as slow down, if not reverse, climate change. In addition to recycling, one of the most efficient ways of doing so is by harnessing the energy we need from abundant, renewable resources. And the renewable energy statistics show us that sustainable resources such as hydro, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal power are a step in the right direction. While the world as a whole has made significant changes by harnessing renewable energy sources, the following statistics and facts paint a sobering picture. As we’ll see, there’s so much more we still need to do to make any significant move toward becoming truly green-minded.
The Top 10 Renewable Energy Statistics and Facts
- Humans have been using renewable energy sources for well over 2000 years.
- Solar energy is the most abundant and cleanest source of sustainable energy available.
- Just one hour of sunlight across the earth is enough to fully sustain energy demands worldwide for a whole year.
- Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the US, but only 17% of net electricity comes from renewables.
- 77% of Americans believe the US government should develop renewable energy sources further.
- The US renewable energy statistics show that this industry is one of the major employers in America, outnumbering the fossil fuels workforce by 3-to-1.
- China is the leading world superpower in renewable energy, employing 4.08 million people.
- 80% of Brazil’s overall electricity supply comes from renewable energy.
- Almost 100% of Iceland’s electricity supply comes from hydropower and geothermal power.
- 15.8% of electricity on the global scale is produced by hydropower.
Fun Facts About Renewable Energy
1. For the better part of human history, the only sources of energy were renewable ones.
Before the discovery and subsequent usage of non-renewable resources, renewable energy was the only one used. From water wheels that powered grain mills to windmills in Persia lifting water from rivers and brooks to irrigate gardens, to the floor and wall heating in old Rome, renewable energy sources have been used for well over 2000 years. And this is only in terms of recorded history. The Dutch later perfected their windmills in the 1590s and used them to grind grain and pump water, as well for other industrial purposes.
2. According to the renewable energy sources and facts, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass represent the major types of renewable energy.
(C2ES, Water Encyclopedia)
As the most widely used renewable energy source, hydropower satisfies 24% of the world’s overall needs when it comes to electricity—thus serving over 1 billion customers across the world. However, solar energy is the most abundant and cleanest source of renewable energy available. While all renewable energy sources are predominately used to generate electricity, solar energy and biomass are also used to heat water and physical spaces. Meanwhile, biodiesel and ethanol have found their use in transportation.
3. One of the most mind-blowing, interesting facts about renewable energy notes that solar energy could easily satisfy the earth’s energy consumption year-round.
When properly harnessed and utilized, the amount of sunlight that hits the surface of the earth in just one hour is enough to fully sustain energy demands worldwide for a whole year.
4. According to a Stanford report, in 20–40 years’ time, renewable energy could be all that’s necessary to supply the world’s needs.
According to researchers Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, the world could convert to renewable energy sources and completely eliminate fossil fuels in 20 to 40 years using existing technology. They stipulate that large-scale renewable energy consumption, while on the scale of humans landing on the Moon, is achievable only if politicians and society as a whole embrace this idea. Furthermore, the cost for this undertaking would, roughly, be the same as the amount used for conventional energy.
5. There are 5 major hydropower plants in the world.
The facts about renewable energy state that China, Brazil, Canada, the US, and Russia are home to five of the biggest hydropower plants in the world. In terms of capacity, the Three Gorges hydropower plant, built on the Yangtze River in China, is the largest, while the Itaipu plant on the Parana River in Brazil produces the most electricity per year. The Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington state is the biggest hydropower plant in the US, providing some two-thirds of the electricity for the state of Washington.
6. Five times more jobs are created by renewable energy compared to fossil fuels.
(Ovoenergy, The Guardian)
In the case of renewable energy job creation, statistics clearly point to more jobs being generated in this industry because of its labor-intensive nature. Even so, fossil fuels are subsidized four times more by G20 nations. Between 2013 and 2015, G20 countries financed fossil fuel projects with $71.8 billion per year using public finance while providing only $18.7 billion for renewable energy projects.
United States Renewable Energy Statistics and Facts
7. The fastest-growing source of energy in the US is renewable energy.
With an increase of 100% from 2000 to 2018, renewable energy is undisputedly the fastest-growing US energy source. In 2018, more than 17% of net electricity generation in the US came from renewable sources, with hydropower providing 7% and wind power providing 6.6%.
8. While wind is the fastest-growing type of renewable energy in the US, it only produces about 2.4% of the overall energy used in America.
On the other hand, fossil fuels account for 80% of the nation’s energy, which clearly demonstrates who is winning in the renewable energy vs. fossil fuels statistics game. Nuclear energy contributes 8.3%, and all renewable energy sources together generate 11% of the total nation’s energy consumption.
9. US President Donald Trump is a staunch coal mining supporter.
Paradoxically, Trump’s endorsement of coal mining is, seemingly, having an adverse effect on investors, who are increasingly looking into alternative energy sources. Indeed, many are using the available renewable energy facts and statistics to find portfolios that support responsible conduct toward the environment.
10. A Pew Research Center survey states that 77% of Americans believe the US should further develop renewable energy sources like wind and solar power rather than produce fossil fuels.
According to statistics following the general public, 92% of Americans support expanding solar power, and 85% support expanding wind power while still coal mining. Coal mining was once supported by 41% of Americans, but it’s gone down to 35%.
11. In the case of renewable energy, the employment statistics in the US predict that solar and wind turbine installers will represent two of the most sought-after jobs in 2026.
Outnumbering the fossil fuel workforce by 3-to-1, nearly 3.3 million Americans are now working (directly or indirectly) in the renewable energy industry. The solar industry employs around 335,000 workers while the wind industry employs more than 111,000 workers.
Renewable Energy Worldwide: Statistics and Facts
12. While renewable energy grows all around the world, it is China that’s set to become a behemoth in renewable energy.
Not only did China have some 150,000 renewable energy patents in 2016, but it was also the biggest installer, exporter, and producer of wind turbines, electric vehicles, and batteries, as well as solar panels. No matter the angle, in China, the renewable energy statistics show that this country is the leading superpower in the world when it comes to renewables. In comparison, the US had approximately 100,000 renewable energy patents in 2016, while the EU and Japan had 75,000 patents each.
13. In 2018, Japan increased its total sustainable energy generation from 16.4% to 17.4%.
In Japan, these renewable energy statistics increased mostly due to solar PV power generation (6.5%) and the combination of solar PV and wind power generation (7.2%). However, the country’s fossil fuel percentage—despite going down from 81% to 78%—is still very high. Its nuclear power production has also increased, rising from 2.8% in 2017 to 4.7% in 2018.
14. Energiewende, a major plan initiated in Germany in 2010, aims to change the country’s energy system into a more sustainable one.
In Germany, the renewable energy statistics show the country reaching 46.3% in its consumption of alternative energy sources in 2019. Called “the world’s first major renewable energy economy,” Germany’s renewables mainly come from solar, wind, and biomass sources. Following on its Energiewende plan, Germany aims to reach 65% of power generation via renewables by 2030 while casting nuclear energy aside by 2022.
15. With 80% of its overall electricity production coming from renewables in 2016, Brazil is another major world player in generating green energy.
In Brazil, the renewable energy statistics paint a pretty green and sustainable picture. 66% of the country’s total energy production comes from hydropower. Meanwhile, the rest of the renewable energy is distributed among bioenergy, which accounts for 8.7% of electricity production, and other renewables, which account for 5.8%. The country managed a 3.7% decline in C02 emissions in 2018.
16. As for Europe, the renewable energy statistics indicate that 18.9% of the EU’s consumed energy came from renewable sources in 2018.
(PHYS, Atlantic Council, Eurostat)
The EU’s target of 20% in 2020 now seems within reach and goes hand in hand with the European Green Deal initiative to become a climate-neutral economy by 2050. While each country in the EU has personalized renewable energy goals that are based on their potential and situation, many have exceeded their set goals (11 countries).
In fact, the renewable energy statistics show that Nordic countries—Denmark, Sweden, and Finland—are absolute trailblazers in renewable energy. Sweden gets more than 54% of its electricity from renewables, Denmark gets 43% of its electricity from wind power, and Finland sources 37% of all energy consumption from alternative energy sources.
17. According to the renewable energy employment statistics, 11 million people around the globe found employment in the green energy industry in 2018.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that China employs the greatest number of workers, 4,078,000, in the sustainable energy industry. Meanwhile, Brazil (1,125,000), the US (855,000), India (719,000), and the EU’s 28 countries in total (1,235,000) follow behind.
Interesting Facts About Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy
18. Nonrenewable energy sources are those that will, eventually, run out and won’t be restocked for thousands or even millions of years.
Mostly created from the decayed remains of marine creatures, fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum are treasured and affordable energy sources for humans. However, since the main element of fossil fuels is carbon, burning them releases carbon dioxide that’s harmful to the environment.
19. Nobody truly knows how much fossil fuels we have left on Earth.
While the facts about non-renewable energy clearly show this is a finite source that will eventually dry out, nobody actually knows when this will happen. Coal reserves could run out by the end of the century, and oil reserves could run out sooner, around the middle of the century.
20. Currently, oil is the main source of energy throughout the world.
Fossil fuels supply some 80% of the world’s energy requirements. Oil is the world’s most-used non-renewable energy source accounting for 39% of overall energy consumption followed by coal at 28% and gas at 22%.
21. One of the most important renewable energy facts to consider: the net worth of the fossil fuel industry is enormous.
The combined worth of the fossil fuel industry firms listed on the stock exchange is $4.65 trillion. While Apple is the largest company in the world, indicatively, oil company ExxonMobile is the second largest in the world and has a net worth of $350 billion.
22. The renewable energy stats show that the initial costs for renewable energy plants are relatively high.
Building a dam is time-consuming and costly, as is its maintenance. The installation of wind turbines and solar panels requires large stretches of land. Otherwise, it won’t be possible to produce the amount of energy that will be competitive with fossil fuels. After all, on cloudy days and over the night, solar panels risk being less efficient—and less windy days mean wind turbines won’t rotate enough.
What percentage of renewable energy is used in the world?
Sustainable energy makes up 26.2% of electricity generation (2018), which is mostly sourced from hydropower. Less than 10% of renewable energy is used for cooling and heating and 3.3% for transportation.
What percentage of US energy is renewable?
In the US, statistics point out that about 11% of total US energy consumption came from renewable energy sources in 2018. The US saw a 100% increase in renewable energy sources from 2000 to 2018, making it the fastest-growing energy source in this country.
Which country uses the most renewable energy?
Iceland is the undisputed winner when it comes to renewable energy production and consumption. With 100% of its electricity coming from renewable resources, Iceland produces the most alternative energy per capita in the world. All the energy used for heating and electricity comes from hydropower and geothermal power plants. Combined, geothermal and hydro energy satisfy 81% of Iceland’s energy needs.
What renewable energy source produces the most electricity?
Hydropower produces the most electricity. In 2018, some 15.8% of electricity came from hydropower. Together with other renewable sources like wind, solar, biopower, and geothermal, the total production of electricity via renewables was 26.2%.
How many countries have renewable energy targets?
From 2015 onward, as many as 164 countries around the world have at least one kind of renewable energy target set. Most countries (150) aimed their renewable energy targets toward electricity. However, 47 countries have also set targets for the cooling and heating sector as well, which is a giant leap as only 2 countries had such targets in 2005. In terms of renewable transport targets, 59 countries had adopted those by mid-2015, renewable energy world statistics show.
While the initial cost of setting up a renewable energy infrastructure is high compared to the finite fossil fuels industry, the benefits humanity is already reaping from it by far outweigh this “disadvantage”—if we can even call it that.
To properly harness and fully exploit the renewable energy sources that benefit both humanity and the planet is a gargantuan undertaking. But this enterprise is not just a necessary one; it’s mandatory.
Renewable energy statistics provide a realistic overview of how much we’ve progressed in optimizing these amazing resources. Furthermore, they demonstrate how much more has to be done to undo the damage we have inflicted—if such a thing is even possible—and to preserve the only world we have for posterity.
- Atlantic Council
- Business Insider
- Center for Sustainable Systems
- Environmental and Energy Study Institute
- IEA Bioenergy
- Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies
- International Energy Agency
- International Renewable Energy Agency
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- NS Energy
- Pew Research Center
- Renew Economy
- Stanford News
- The Guardian
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. Energy Information Administration
- Water Encyclopedia