No Olympics this year, so let’s look at a different competition …

As always, BP is the first to come with energy statistics on a country-by-country basis in its Statistical Review of World Energy. Using the share in total electricity production as the indicator, we can compare countries per energy type.

Wind energy is gradually becoming the most important renewable energy source. Who is the winner? Here are the results:

No surprise here, Denmark was the early adopter of wind energy and is sill leading, with now for the first time a share greater than 50%. Denmark is first followed by some smaller countries, but Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom are also already around 20% – and growing. Is this graph only for Europe? No, but the Top-10 does consist of only European Union member states. The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive has clearly had an impact.

This is solar:

Italy is leading, but it is a very tight finish! As for wind, three European countries are in the lead, but probably not for long: the shares in Chile, Japan and Australia are close, and rapidly growing. Actually this is no surprise, these countries receive a lot more solar irradiation per square meter than most of Europe. Around 2010, we saw similar rapid growth for several European countries, but then reverse salients kicked in, see my earlier blog on that topic.

Good old hydro power:

Just like skiing, there is probably no discipline for which geography is so important. No big developments here. Norway has built some natural gas-fired power plants and is gradually moving away from the virtually 100% hydro power share. South American countries are well represented, and Ecuador and Colombia have seen some growth in recent years.

No further breakdown is available in the BP Review, but they give data for ‘other renewables‘:

This category of residuals has some interesting players. Iceland is leading as the champion of geothermal power production, and this is also an important source for New Zealand. The position of the other countries is based on bio-energy and waste – so Denmark is also leading in bio-energy.

And then, all renewables together:

It is difficult to beat Iceland and Norway! But the interesting material in this graph is how some countries, Denmark and Lithuania, have transformed their electricity systems in the past decade. Both small countries, but also countries with no exceptional resources, they just consistently had policies moving in the right direction.

Renewables are not the only low-carbon energy source. Let’s finally also have a look at nuclear:

Not unexpected, France is leading here. Most countries are stable or have slowly declining or increasing shares of nuclear. Countries with declining (Germany), growing (China) or declining and then growing (Japan) shares do not reach the Top-10. What surprised me is that – just like for wind – all leading countries are in Europe and a member of the EU (with exception of Ukraine). This continent (with some exceptions) was not ‘blessed’ with abundant and cheap fossil energy resources. That may turn into a real blessing now, making it easier to leave the fossil energy resources behind.

Rankings are nice, but they have their limits. Small countries have quite a dominant role in these lists. And that is different from the Olympics, where the absolute number of medals counts. Nevertheless, the successes and growth rates achieved by these countries can be an inspiration for the big brothers about which I blogged last year. More on them in a follow-up blog!

Postcript: all non-fossil sources together

Several people asked what the ranking would be if all low-carbon sources would be counted together. Here you go: 10 countries have power generation that is more than 75% fossil free. In most cases, hydropower is the main source of fossil-free power, in three cases nuclear, in one case wind energy. In all cases but one, they are complemented by other sources to get to a high total share. Surprising that all Skandinavian countries have very low CO2 emissions from the power sector, but originating from a very different mix of sources.

(added on 11 Sept. 2020)


  1. Statistical Review of World Energy, 69th edition, BP, London, UK, 2020.
  2. World Energy Balances, IEA, Paris, France, 2019 (used for the indicative breakdown of geothermal energy and bio-energy).