Mapped: Asia’s Biggest Sources of Electricity by Country
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Mapped: Asia’s Biggest Sources of Electricity by Country
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The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that Asia will account for half of the world’s electricity consumption by 2025, with one-third of global electricity being consumed in China.
To explore how this growing electricity demand is currently being met, the above graphic maps out Asia’s main sources of electricity by country, using data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy and the IEA .
A Coal-Heavy Electricity Mix
Although clean energy has been picking up pace in Asia, coal currently makes up more than half of the continent’s electricity generation.
No Asian countries rely on wind, solar, or nuclear energy as their primary source of electricity, despite the combined share of these sources doubling over the last decade.
|% of total electricity mix, 2011||% of total electricity mix, 2021|
|Total Electricity Generated||9,780 terawatt-hours||15,370 terawatt-hours|
The above comparison shows that the slight drops in the continent’s reliance on coal, natural gas, and oil in the last decade have been absorbed by wind, solar, and hydropower. The vast growth in total electricity generated, however, means that a lot more fossil fuels are being burned now (in absolute terms) than at the start of the last decade, despite their shares dropping.
Following coal, natural gas comes in second place as Asia’s most used electricity source, with most of this demand coming from the Middle East and Russia.
Zooming in: China’s Big Electricity Demand
While China accounted for just 5% of global electricity demand in 1990, it is en route to account for 33% by 2025. The country is already the largest electricity producer in the world by far, annually generating nearly double the electricity produced by the second largest electricity producer in the world, the United States.
With such a large demand, the current source of China’s electricity is worthy of consideration, as are its plans for its future electricity mix.
Currently, China is one of the 14 Asian countries that rely on coal as its primary source of electricity. In 2021, the country drew 62% of its electricity from coal, a total of 5,339 TWh of energy. To put that into perspective, this is approximately three times all of the electricity generated in India in the same year.
Following coal, the remainder of China’s electricity mix is as follows.
|Source||% of total electricity mix (China, 2021)|
Despite already growing by 1.5x in the last decade, China’s demand for electricity is still growing. Recent developments in the country’s clean energy infrastructure point to most of this growth being met by renewables .
China does also have ambitious plans in place for its clean energy transition beyond the next few years. These include increasing its solar capacity by 667% between 2025 and 2060, as well as having wind as its primary source of electricity by 2060.
Asia’s Road to Clean Energy
According to the IEA, the world reached a new all-time high in power generation-related emissions in 2022, primarily as a result of the growth in fossil-fuel-generated electricity in the Asia Pacific.
With that said, these emissions are set to plateau by 2025, with a lot of the global growth in renewables and nuclear power being seen in Asia.
Currently, nuclear power is of particular interest in the continent, especially with 2022’s energy crisis highlighting the need for energy independence and security. India, for instance, is set to have an 80% growth in its nuclear electricity generation in the next two years, with Japan, South Korea, and China following suit in increasing their nuclear capacity.
The road ahead also hints at other interesting insights, specifically when it comes to hydropower in Asia. With heatwaves and droughts becoming more and more commonplace as a result of climate change, the continent may be poised to learn some lessons from Europe’s record-low hydropower generation in 2022 , diverting its time and resources to other forms of clean energy, like wind and solar.
Whatever the future holds, one thing is clear: with ambitious plans already underway, Asia’s electricity mix may look significantly different within the next few decades.
Charted: Global Energy Consumption by Source, and Carbon Emissions (1900-2021)
Despite the advent of renewable sources of energy, fossil fuels and their carbon emissions, haven’t gone anywhere.
Where does our energy come from, and how has this mix changed over the last 100 years?
These charts from Truman Du examine the complex relationship between energy production, consumption, and related carbon emissions using information from Our World in Data .
The World’s Energy Mix (1900-2021)
In the last 10 years, total global energy consumption has risen nearly 15% . Before that, between 2000 and 2010, it increased by nearly 25% .
And despite frequent headlines about green initiatives over the last few years, fossil fuels continue to account for the majority of total energy consumption.
In 2021, 77% of global energy was sourced from coal, oil, and gas.
Even so, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro have gained traction since the year 2000. Hydropower was the biggest renewable energy source in 2021, accounting for 6.3% of total energy consumed.
A Fossil Fuel Heavy Mix
Taking a closer look at the breakdown of energy by source, another strong (if slightly counterintuitive) trend appears to be holding its own.
Coal has remained a key source of the world’s energy consumption since 1900. Despite its relative share decreasing over time, as of 2021, coal remains the second biggest energy source, accounting for 25% of the world’s energy needs. All figures below are in TWh (terrawatt-hours).
|Global Energy Consumption||1900||1950||2000||2010||2021|
|Solar||-||-||3 TWh||94 TWh||2,702 TWh|
|Wind||-||-||93 TWh||962 TWh||4,872 TWh|
|Nuclear||-||-||7,323 TWh||7,374 TWh||7,031 TWh|
|Hydro||47 TWh||925 TWh||7,826 TWh||9,518 TWh||11,183 TWh|
|Gas||64 TWh||2,092 TWh||23,994 TWh||31,589 TWh||40,375 TWh|
|Oil||181 TWh||5,444 TWh||42,881 TWh||47,895 TWh||51,170 TWh|
|Coal||5,728 TWh||12,603 TWh||27,428 TWh||41,996 TWh||44,473 TWh|
|Total||12,131 TWh||28,564 TWh||122,745 TWh||152,966 TWh||176,431 TWh|
From its crucial role in the Industrial Revolution, to its relative cheapness and useful byproducts, coal isn’t close to being phased out anytime soon. In fact, it has seen a resurgence in powering India and China’s growing economies in the 21st century.
As fossil fuel use has increased in absolute terms, so have carbon emissions.
Carbon Emissions in 1900 vs. 2020
China, the U.S., India, Russia, and Japan are the top five emitters in the world, responsible for 60% of the world’s total emissions in 2020.
As these countries include the world’s largest economic powers, some believe emissions are a necessary byproduct of economic growth. Though there are exceptions, this seems to have held true on average, as studies show a 1% change in GDP is correlated with a 0.072 change in carbon dioxide emissions.
When looking at the chart of carbon emissions below, China’s journey of economic growth in the latter half of the 20th century exemplifies this.
China’s emissions increased dramatically, rising by six times from 1978 to 2018 alone, driven primarily by economic growth.
Here’s a breakdown of the top 50 biggest emitters in the world in 2020 versus 1900. All figures are in units of 100 million tons, and are rounded for simplicity.
|Rank||Country||1900 Emissions||Country||2020 Emissions|
The data also highlights the shift in the global economy between developed and developing economies.
In the 1900s, the largest emitters were the U.S. and other industrialized nations. In the later data set, developing economies like India, Brazil, and Indonesia have moved up the list as more significant carbon emitters as well.
The accounting for carbon emissions can change with international trade, depending on how emissions are counted and attributed.
Should emissions generated from a manufactured good be assigned to the country where the good was made, or to the place where the good was ultimately consumed? Adjusting emissions based on imports and exports can help us look at these differences.
Richer economies that import lots of goods, like the U.S., UK, or Germany tend to have higher consumption-based emissions.
Meanwhile, for high-growth countries like China, India, Iran, and South Africa, the inverse is true: their production-based emissions are higher than their consumption-based emissions.
Cumulative Carbon Emissions
When taking into account emissions from the Industrial Revolution to 2020, nearly every continent has contributed large amounts of carbon emissions—but key leaders emerge.
Here is the full breakdown:
According to the UN, the world will need to cut emissions by 32 Gt more than what countries have already promised in order to achieve the 1.5 °C target outlined in the Paris Agreement.
As you can see in this data, how or if this happens will likely be driven largely by the future of our energy sources and consumption.
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