In the comments to my post about energy use by country, my dad wrote:
Never would have thought that Qatar would lead the pack. Now I would like to see energy per capita for renewable and non-renewable sources.
And I thought, that would be really interesting! The closest I was able to find was this graph of the renewable power capacities for various countries in 2008. It comes from the Renewables Global Status Report, which is put out by the Renewable Energy Policy Network (link will open in a PDF).
(Note: I have no idea why the graph excludes large hydrpower – I wasn’t able to find an explanation for that in the report. The only I have is that since large-scale dams have such a negative environmental impact, groups like the REPN don’t like to promote their expansion. But it still seems pretty strange.)
Obviously, the numbers on this graph are unprocessed, and it doesn’t tell us too much about the adjusted per capita capacity of any of these top countries. So I grabbed some population statistics from Wolfram Alpha, brought all the data into Excel, and came out with this:
This isn’t the most sophisticated graph, but my experience with statistics is limited and all I really wanted was a visual representation of what the last graph was already telling us. And as we can see, though Spain and Germany trail in total renewable energy capacity, they are actually providing proportionally more renewable energy for their comparatively modest populations. China and India, on the other hand, are burdened with such massive populations that they’re actually underperforming on a per-capita basis, while Japan and the United States are somewhere in the middle.
Regardless of how we’re doing relative to other countries, the United States continues to rely on nonrenewable energy sources for the vast majority of our power – of the 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy we used last year, only 7.3% were generated by renewable sources. The Renewables Global Status Report does contain glimmers of hope, though, noting that “a signifi- cant milestone was reached in 2008 when added power capacity from renewables in both the United States and the European Union exceeded added power capacity from conventional power (including gas, coal, oil, and nuclear). That is, renewables represented more than 50 percent of total added capacity.” So, I guess we’re working on it.