Global Electricity Generation


Production from: Electricity (Unit: GWh)
– coal 8227950
– oil 1114455
– gas 4126912
– biomass 190468
– waste 68034
– nuclear 2719058
– hydro* 3162165
– geothermal 61819
– solar PV 4104
– solar thermal 681
– wind 173317
– tide 550
– other sources 5358
Total Production 19854871

(IEA figures, 2007)
Currently globally we generate 19,854,871 GWh, ie. nearly 20,000 TWh, of electricity. Forecasts of future energy use vary hugely. The International Energy Agency forecasts continued steep growth. Some countries, such as India, China and elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America are forecasting exponential growth. Meanwhile some green campaigners envisage humanity using less energy in the post fossil fuel world, with Energy Descent Action Planning forming the central core of the Transition Towns Movement.
If humanity delays the transition to a renewables based economy then we will hit the twin buffers of climate change and peak oil. Therein lie the collapse scenarios most of us are familiar with. If we make the transition rapidly then Peak Oil is no problem; we’ll leave the “difficult to get dregs” in the ground, and most of the coal. Renewable resources are virtually limitless; the problem is simply to direct sufficient funds into developing them while simultaneously scaling back on waste and designing energy efficiency into all our systems; industrial, agricultural, transport etc.
So in 2050 what might the above table look like? Of course nobody knows for sure but my guess is that if humanity acts to maximize its collective best interests we’ll probably be producing much more electricity than today as the transport sector is electrified and many more countries develop. Maybe the total might go from 20 to 80 or 100TWh; a four or five fold increase.
But much more important than the overall figure will be the order, which largest to smallest currently reads; coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, oil, biomass, wind, waste, geothermal, solar pv, concentrating solar thermal and tide. (Wave, solar Stirling, solar cvp don’t yet register)
By 2050 I’d hope this list read more like; concentrating solar thermal, other solar (including solar Stirling cvp & pv.) wind, geothermal, hydro, tide, wave, biomass, waste and gas. (Coal, oil and nuclear would have been phased out by 2050.)