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Countries leading the way in renewable energy

Renewable energy is a hot topic at the moment and many countries are trying to get involved. Fossil fuels have been the main source of energy for years due to their relatively low price.

However, due to the increasing population, and the following increasing demand for energy, we can’t rely on these finite sources.

It’s time for us to stop using energy that is causing harm to the environment, and begin looking for more sustainable sources of energy.

First, let’s look at the top 10 largest countries in the world by energy consumption. The below infographic shows the energy consumption, plus whether the energy is from renewables.

Underneath, the line graph shows where the UK is at in terms of their renewable targets.

Renewable countries infographic

Top 10 Largest Countries in the World by Energy Consumption

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. Russia
  4. India
  5. Japan
  6. Canada
  7. Germany
  8. Brazil
  9. South Korea
  10. Iran

The UK is currently 14th in order of energy consumption, according to the US EIA.

Renewable Energy Sources and the Countries With the Highest Usage

Renewable energy is collected from naturally replenishing sources that are virtually inexhaustible when used responsibly. Renewable is different from carbon-zero energies, such as nuclear energy, which emit low or no levels of CO2. Some of the most popular forms of renewable energy sources include:

Solar Power

Solar Power

Solar Power relies on harvesting energy from the sun. Solar power is harvested using solar panels that absorb sunlight and convert it into energy that can be used to power a toaster or a lightbulb. It’s one of the easiest forms of renewable energy to bring into your daily life – you can install solar panels on your rooftop and they last up to 25 years without losing efficiency.

Pros and Cons of Solar Power

Pros of Solar Energy

  • Renewable energy source.
  • Uses less water and reduces air pollution.
  • Helps reduce world’s carbon emissions.
  • Low maintenance costs.
  • Long lasting – can be used for 25 to 30 years.
  • Can be used on under-utilised land.

Cons of Solar Energy

  • Weather dependent.
  • Solar energy storage is expensive.
  • Use of space/not all locations are suitable.
  • Production is resource intensive.
  • Panels should be recycled, but often are not.

Countries That make the Most of Solar Power

Solar power is widely used in sunny areas to power electricity – many places use this as their main sources of renewable electricity.

Places like Yemen, Niger, Botswana, South Sudan, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, The Bahamas, Grenada, and many more countries and territories rely only on solar power as their renewable source of energy.

Malta, Yemen, and Honduras are the top three countries that rely on solar power for their total energy use, at 14.6%, 10.9%, and 10.2%, respectively.

Wind Power

Wind Power

Wind power is produced by wind turbines. These turbines take the energy created by the kinetic energy created by air in motion – wind turning or moving the turbine to convert it into electricity. The wind hits one of the blades on the turbine and causes them to begin turning the turbine. This turns the kinetic energy from the wind into rotational energy, which can then be converted into electricity using electromagnetism.

Wind power is becoming increasingly popular as they become more efficient and easier to afford.

Pros and Cons of Wind Power

Pros of Wind Energy

  • One of the cleanest forms of RE.
  • Actively advancing technology.
  • Can be built offshore to not disrupt onland locations.
  • Reduces dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Low operating costs.
  • Land owners can rent an area to wind farms for extra money.
  • Wind energy industry creates jobs.

Cons of Wind Energy

  • Potential danger to wildlife.
  • Noise/visual pollution.
  • High upfront cost and tends to take decades to pay for themselves.
  • Dependent on wind speeds/locations.

Countries that Make the Most of Wind Power

For countries that have flat, windy lands, wind turbines are used to power the country.

Places like the Falkland Islands, Chad, Cape Verde, and The Netherlands make the most of their landscape by allowing wind to power 90-98% of the renewable energy in the country.

Though this doesn’t account for the majority of the energy used in the country.

Denmark takes the lead in using wind to power 41.8% of the total country’s electricity, with Lithuania following behind at 26.9% of the country being powered by wind.



Hydropower, also called hydroelectric energy, or hydroelectricity, is energy that is created from moving water. It’s one of the oldest forms of renewable energy, and still one of the most efficient. Hydropower uses water to rotate turbines. They’re usually found in dams or reservoirs. The largest hydroelectric dam in the world is The Three Gorges Dam in China that can produce up to 22,500 megawatts of Power at a time.

Pros and Cons of Hydropower

Pros of Hydropower

  • Water is a renewable source of energy.
  • Clean and safe – doesn’t use fuel or release toxins.
  • Requires low maintenance and operation costs.
  • Designed for long term use – average lifetime of 50-100 years.
  • Can easily be scaled up or down to meet changing energy demands.
  • Lakes formed behind the dam can be used for recreational purposes.
  • Hydropower is the most efficient form of energy – dams are up to 90% efficient at converting water to electricity.

Cons of Hydropower

  • Costly and involved to construct and will take a while to pay for itself.
  • At risk of failure due to bad construction, natural disasters, or sabotage. If a dam fails, the influx of water has the potential to be catastrophic to plants, wildlife, and humans.
  • Plant material in flooded areas begins to rot and decompose in standing water – this leads to carbon dioxide and methane being produced.
  • Local draughts in areas with dams affect energy production.
  • Changes in the ecosystem cause damage to animals and plants living near the area.

Countries that Make the Most of Hydropower

For countries that live on the coast, renewable energy is easily accessible through hydropower. Many of these countries rely solely on hydropower for their renewable sources of electricity.

Countries like Russia, Ukraine, Albania, Laos, Liberia, Greenland, and Serbia use hydroelectric power as their main source of renewable energy.

Only a few countries use this to power their entire countries; Paraguay, DR Congo, and Albania run almost completely on hydropower.

Tidal power

Hydro Power’s Younger Brother: Tidal Energy

Tidal energy is produced during the rise and fall of the tides, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon as it orbits around the Earth. This is a newer form of renewable energy and so is not as developed and efficient as other renewable forms of energy.

There are three different ways to create tidal energy; tidal streams, barrages, and tidal lagoons.

  • Tidal streams are used by placing a turbine in the flow of water created by the tides. This turbine converts the rotational energy from the pushing water into electricity. Using tidal streams is challenging because they have the potential to disrupt the tide that they are trying to gather energy from. To avoid getting marine life caught in the system, they’re placed in shallow water and turn relatively slowly.
  • Barrages are large dams that turn tidal energy into electricity. They’re created across tidal rivers, bays, and other bodies of water affected by the changing tides. They work the same way a river dam works, by collecting water into a pool during high tide and releasing it through turbines to turn it into electricity.
  • Tidal lagoons are bodies of ocean water that are enclosed either naturally or artificially. These work similar to a barrage, however they can be developed along the natural coastline, and have minimal impact on the environment they are in – making them more appealing than barrages.

Pros and Cons of Tidal Energy

Pros of Tidal Energy

  • The tides do not change when we harvest energy from them – It’s a renewable source of energy and so tidal power stations become permanent sources of energy.
  • Tidal power stations don’t emit any greenhouse gases or toxins.
  • Tidal currents are predictable making it easy to know how much power will be produced.
  • They have a high power output when compared to wind turbines.

Cons of Tidal Energy

  • Tidal power plants must meet very specific location requirements to be approved for building.
  • Expensive to build.
  • Can be dangerous to marine life.
  • Has potential to reshape the seashore environment and have detrimental effects on the local ecosystem.
  • Energy can only be collected at specific times – which may not match the time of high energy demand. Storing energy is difficult and expensive.

Countries that Make the Most of Tidal Energy

Countries that border the ocean have the opportunity to harvest energy from the tidal forces, via a tidal energy station. The largest tidal energy station can be found in South Korea at Lake Sihwa. This tidal power station has an output capacity of 254MW and is generated with tidal inflows that turn underwater turbines.

France and the UK follow close behind with tidal power plants that have an output capacity of 240MW, enough to power 120,000 homes for 120 years.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy uses heat that comes from the surface of the Earth to create power. Deep wells are dug to create underground reservoirs. These underground reservoirs collect steam and hot water that rotate turbines. There are three kinds of geothermal energy: dry steam, flash, and binary.

  • Dry steam uses steam straight from the Earth to rotate a turbine.
  • Flash steam takes hot water from inside the Earth and cools it to use the steam it produces to rotate a turbine.
  • Binary Cycle uses hot water from inside the Earth to vaporise a secondary liquid that turns a turbine.

Pros and Cons of Geothermal Energy

Pros of Geothermal Energy

  • Harvesting geothermal energy produces no emissions.
  • Reliable source of energy – it’s constant and available all year long.
  • Come in large and small scale applications for single houses and commercial buildings.
  • Newer industry and advancements are being explored.

Cons of Geothermal Energy

  • There’s a change that specific locations may cool down over time, making it impossible to harvest geothermal energy in the future.
  • Initial investment cost is high (though return on investment can be earned within 2-10 years).
  • Land is required in order to install a personal geothermal system. Though vertical ground source heat pumps can be used in cases with less land.

Countries that Make the Most of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is used widely in areas that have volcanic activity or hot springs.

Kenya takes full advantage of geothermal by powering 48.8% of the entire country (with hydropower powering 38.9%).

Iceland comes in second, powering 27.3% of their country with geothermal energy, and El Salvador, and New Zealand come in close behind, powering 26.3% and 17.3% of their country.

Kenya, The Philippines, El Salvandor, and Papua New Guinea use 53.8%, 50.2%, 43.4%, and 31.0% respectively as their total renewable energy source.

Biomass Energy

Biomass Energy

Biomass energy is made from organic material that comes from plants and animals that can either be burned directly for heat, or converted into liquid and gas fuels.

Sources of biomass energy sources include:

  • Wood and wood waste.
  • Crops and agricultural waste materials: including corn, soybeans, food processing scraps, algae, etc.
  • Biogenic materials in solid waste: Wool, food, cotton, paper, etc.
  • Animal and human manure.

Biomass can be converted into energy using a series of methods that include burning, thermochemical conversion, chemical conversion, and biological conversion.

Burning: This is the most common method for converting biomass into energy. When burned, it produces heat, which can generate electricity by turning steam turbines.

Thermochemical conversion: during this process, biomass is exposed to high heat and pressure in the absence of oxygen and goes through a chemical and physical separation into different molecules, turning it into gas and liquid.

Chemical conversion: This involves a process called transesterification. In which fat and oil from organic material are converted into biofuel using alcohol.

Biological Conversion: This involves using fermentation and anaerobic digestion on biomass to convert it into fuels like biogas and bioethanol.

Pros and Cons of Biomass Energy

Pros of Biomass Energy

  • Biomass sources (plants, manure, and waste) are continually replenished.
  • They can help reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.
  • Generating energy from waste material helps remove that waste material from areas that plants and animals live.

Cons of Biomass Energy

  • Biomass releases carbon dioxide while burning. Though some say that this is offset by the trees that remove CO2 from the atmosphere during their lifetime.
  • Can lead to deforestation if not regulated properly.
  • Costs to build and operate a biomass energy plant are high.

Countries Making the Most of Biomass Energy

While it’s unlikely that biomass will act as an entire country’s energy source, it’s still valuable to have as an option (and much safer than burning fossil fuels).

Uruguay uses the highest percentage of biomass to fuel the country at 18.4% of the total energy used. Though Mauritius, Finland, and Denmark follow close behind at 17%, 16.8%, and 16.1% respectively.

Though some countries rely on biomass as the majority source of renewable energy. Qatar, Singapore, Guayana, Mauritius, and Cuba rely on biomass to contribute to 75% – 93% of their renewable energy source.

Renewable Energy Use By Country

The G7 leaders are a group of 7 countries that are expected to lead the way in terms of the world’s economy, trade, and global trends. These are the countries expected to make the largest changes in renewable energy sources in an attempt to lead the way for less developed countries.

The G7 Countries include:

  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • UK
  • US

We’ve also included the data from other notable countries:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Paraguay
  • Iceland
  • DR Congo

We’ll take a look at how each of these countries use renewable energy.

G7: Renewable Energy in Canada (2016)

Total Energy (GW/h) Total RE (GW/h)


% of Total

667,438 433,597 65.00%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 387,208 58.00% 89.30%
Wind Power 30,766 4.60% 7.10%
Biomass 12,685 1.90% 2.90%
Solar Power 3,031 0.50% 0.70%
Geothermal No Data

G7: Renewable Energy in France (2016)

Total Energy (GW/h) Total RE (GW/h)


% of Total

556,184 97,242 17.50%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 64,889 11.70% 66.70%
Wind Power 21,400 3.80% 22.00%
Biomass 7,134 1.30% 7.30%
Solar Power 8,160 1.50% 8.40%
Geothermal 4 0.00% 0.00%

G7: Renewable Energy in Germany (2019)

Total Energy Total RE RE % of Total
514,860 237,610 46.20%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 19,430 3.80% 8.20%
Wind Power 127,230 24.70% 53.50%
Biomass 44,420 8.60% 18.70%
Solar Power 46,540 9.00% 19.60%
Geothermal No Data

G7: Renewable Energy in Italy (2016)

Total Energy Total RE RE % of Total
289,768 108,036 37.30%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 44,257 15.30% 41.00%
Wind Power 17,689 6.10% 16.40%
Biomass 19,509 6.70% 18.10%
Solar Power 22,117 7.60% 20.50%
Geothermal 6,289 2.20% 5.80%

G7: Renewable Energy In Japan (2016)

Total Energy Total RE RE % of Total
1,057,976 158,822 15.00%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 85,083 8.00% 53.60%
Wind Power 9,612 0.90% 6.10%
Biomass 16,847 1.60% 10.60%
Solar Power 50,952 4.80% 32.10%
Geothermal 2,509 0.20% 1.60%

G7: Renewable Energy in the UK (2018)

Total Energy Total RE RE % of Total
332,893 110,019 33.00%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 5,490 1.60% 5.00%
Wind Power 56,904 17.10% 51.70%
Biomass 34,759 10.40% 31.60%
Solar Power 12,857 3.90% 11.70%
Geothermal No Data

G7: Renewable Energy in the US (2016)

Total Energy Total RE RE % of Total
4,322,038 637,076 14.70%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 292,113 6.80% 45.90%
Wind Power 229,471 5.30% 36.00%
Biomass 69,017 1.60% 10.80%
Solar Power 50,334 1.20% 7.90%
Geothermal 18,584 0.40% 2.90%

Renewable Energy in Russia (2016)

Total Energy Total RE RE % of Total
1,090,973 184,172 16.90%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 185,668 17.00% 99.80%
Wind Power 6 0.00% 0.00%
Biomass 32 0.00% 0.00%
Solar Power 79.3 0.00% 0.00%
Geothermal 414 0.00% 0.20%

Renewable Energy in China (2019)

Total Energy Total RE RE % of Total
7,142,200 1,739,400 24.35%
RE Source GW/H % of Total % of Re
Hydro Power 1,153,400 16.10% 66.30%
Wind Power 357,700 5.00% 20.50%
Biomass 111,100 1.60% 6.40%
Solar Power 117,200 1.60% 6.70%
Geothermal 143.5 0.00% 0.00%

Countries with the Highest Percentage Renewable Energy Usage

Country Data collected in: % Renewable Energy
Paraguay 2016 100%
Iceland 2016 100.00%
DR Congo 2016 66.40%
Canada 2016 65.00%
Germany 2019 46.20%
Italy 2016 37.30%
UK 2018 33.00%
China 2019 24.35%
France 2016 17.50%
Russia 2016 16.90%
Japan 2016 15.00%
US 2016 14.70%

Countries Making the Most of Renewable Energy: Final Thoughts

Renewable energy is steadily growing as more laws are put into place to ensure that global warming is slowed.

According to Wikipedia, the countries that are using the highest renewable energy sources are Paraguay, Iceland, DR Congo, and Albania, all using 100% renewable energy (from data collected in 2016) to power their country. Namibia, Costa Rica, Tajikistan, and Norway fall close behind at 95.6%, 73.8%, 97.5%, and 96.2% respectively.

As the results of using fossil fuels become more and more apparent, the use of renewable energy is moving closer towards the mainstream.

According to iea.org, renewable energy is set to account for the majority (95%) of global power capacity through 2026. The use of renewable energy is rising exponentially as the amount of renewable energy used over the period of 2021 to 2026 is expected to be 50% higher than 2015 to 2020.

One day we may find that all of our energy is collected from renewable sources.







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