- Electricity from solar PV increased from 88.7 GWh in 1990 to 315.5 TWh in 2018, achieving a 33.9% annually
- Solar Panels are the fastest of all renewable electricity technologies
- The United States, the largest producer among OECD countries, increased production from 183 GWh in 2000 to 87.2 TWh in 2018, reflecting a 38.9% average annual growth rate over that time.
As more cars use an electric powertrain, the question looms, where does the electricity come from if not coal? The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the findings for electricity production.
The energy sources are listed in the order of decreasing share in the renewable electricity production of OECD countries.
Detailed electricity production by source:
Hydroelectric power is nearing its potential capacity limit in most OECD countries.
Between 1990 and 2018, electricity generated from hydroelectric plants (excluding generation from pumped storage plants) increased from 1 185.2 TWh to 1 429.6 TWh in the OECD, yielding an average annual increase of 0.7%.
In 2018, the largest hydroelectric power generating countries were Canada, the United States, and Norway, which represented 26.8%, 20.6%, and 9.8%, respectively, of OECD hydroelectric production.
The countries with the highest reliance on hydroelectric power are Norway, Iceland, and New Zealand, where the share of hydro generation was 95.0%, 69.7%, and 59.3%, respectively, in 2018. The output from hydro is dependent on rainfall, and fluctuations in weather patterns can have a substantial effect on a country’s hydroelectric production.
In 2018, wind turbines produced 26.0% of renewable electricity in the OECD. Between 1990 and 2018, wind power increased from 3.8 TWh to 745.2 TWh, achieving an average annual growth rate of 20.7%. Wind power is the second-fastest growth rate of renewable electricity after solar photovoltaic.
Among OECD regions, wind electricity production is the highest in OECD Europe, with 52.8% of the total OECD production in 2018 and an average growth rate of 24.9% per annum since 1990. In absolute terms, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom are the largest producers of electricity from wind in 2018 within the OECD, producing 277.9 TWh, 111.6 TWh, and 57.1 TWh, respectively. Offshore wind will be an area of significant growth in OECD countries in the coming years. In 2017, the share of offshore wind in total wind production was 7.4%.
The OECD produced 315.5 TWh of solar PV electricity in 2018, 11.0% of its total renewable electricity production. The five largest producers of solar PV electricity in the OECD were the United States with 87.1 TWh, Japan with 67.6 TWh, Germany with 46.1 TWh, Italy with 22.7 TWh, and the United Kingdom with 12.9 TWh. These five countries combined produced 75.0% of the PV electricity in the OECD. The countries with the highest share of solar PV in their electricity generation in 2018 are Luxembourg (11.9%), Italy (7.8%), Greece (7.2%), Germany (7.2%), and Japan (6.6%). Luxembourg imports most of the electricity consumed in the country, which leads to a higher than average solar PV generation share. Electricity from solar PV increased from 88.7 GWh in 1990 to 315.5 TWh in 2018, achieving a 33.9% annual growth rate, the fastest of all renewable electricity technologies. The United States, the largest producer among OECD countries, increased production from 183 GWh in 2000 to 87.2 TWh in 2018, reflecting a 38.9% average annual growth rate over that time.
Electricity generation from solid biofuels grew from 94.3 TWh to 184.2 TWh between 1990 and 2018, a 2.4% average annual growth. As the fourth-largest renewable electricity source after hydropower, wind and solar PV, solid biofuels accounted for 6.4% of renewable electricity generation in 2018. The United States (45.6 TWh) accounted for 24.8% of electricity generated from solid biofuels within the OECD, where it makes up 6.1% of the country’s renewable electricity production. The second-largest producer of electricity from solid biofuels is the United Kingdom (24.9 TWh), where it represents 22.4% of the country’s renewable electricity supply. Other large producers of electricity from biofuels in the OECD in 2018 are Japan, Finland, and Germany, with 18.9 TWh, 11.6 TWh, and 10.7 TWh, respectively. The countries with the largest share of electricity generation from solid biofuels are Finland (16.6%), Denmark (14.4%), Lithuania (11.9%), Luxembourg (10.2%), and Estonia (9.9%).
Electricity in the OECD from biogases grew from 3.7 TWh in 1990 to 81.4 TWh in 2018. Production of electricity from biogases grew by an average annual rate of 11.7% since 1990, making it the fourth fastest-growing source of renewable electricity in the OECD. The driver of this growth is OECD Europe, which accounted for 79.5% of OECD production in 2018.
Much of the growth is attributable to Germany, where electricity production from biogases grew by an average growth rate of 19.2% per annum in 1990 to 33.9 TWh in 2018. That increase makes Germany the largest producer in the OECD, with 41.7% of the total OECD electricity generation from biogases.
The second-largest OECD producer in 2018 is the United States, which produced 13.1 TWh, or 16.1% of electricity from biogases in the OECD. However, despite its large share in OECD production, the United States average annual growth rate (6.1% since 1990) has been much slower than many of the European Union countries that use biogases. For example, 34.6% in Italy and 18.9% in Belgium. The third and fourth largest OECD producers were also located in Europe. Italy produced 8.2 TWh or 10.0% of OECD production, and the United Kingdom produced 7.2 TWh (8.8%).
Similar to hydroelectric power, geothermal electricity production has not experienced significant growth between 1990 and 2018. It grew at an average annual rate of 2.3%, from 28.6 TWh to 54.4 TWh. The United States is the largest producer with 43.0% of the OECD total in 2018, with a production of 19.0 TWh, slightly above the 16.0 TWh level in 1990. The second-largest producer is New Zealand, with 7.9 TWh in 2018, representing 14.5% of total OECD production and 21.4% of its total electricity generation.
Other major producers are Turkey (12.7% of total OECD in 2018), Italy (11.2%), and Iceland (11.0%). Renewable municipal waste6 Renewable municipal waste represented 1.2% of renewable electricity generation in 2018 in OECD countries, making it one of the smallest portions of the renewable electricity portfolio. The highest share of renewable electricity generation was in the Netherlands at 12.0%, followed by Luxembourg at 7.0% and Belgium at 5.5%. In 2018, 34.3 TWh of electricity was produced from renewable waste in the OECD.
Liquid biofuels for electricity production is a relatively new technology. The first country to report electricity production of this type was Germany in 2001 with only 15 GWh. Since then, an increasing number of countries have produced substantial amounts of electricity from liquid biofuels. In 2018, 14 countries reported a total of 6 298 GWh of production. The largest producer is Italy, with 4 299 GWh.
Solar thermal power production experienced rapid growth in the 1980s, and 90’s reaching 887 GWh in 1998, but stagnated in the following years. From 2007, solar thermal electricity production grew in Spain, followed by the U.S., with average annual growth rates of 80.2% and 19.2%, respectively. These two countries account for almost 100% of solar thermal electricity production in 2018, with 5.2 TWh in Spain and 4.6 TWh in the United States. The remaining 2.6 GWh were produced in Australia.
Tide, wave, ocean
In 2018, at least one country in each OECD region used tide, wave, and ocean motion to produce electricity. The countries were France (680 GWh), Korea (485 GWh), Canada (20 GWh) and the United Kingdom (8.3 GWh).