Based on the 2022 data, more than half of the world's electricity consumption is still reliant on fossil fuels, with close to two-thirds, specifically 61%, made up of carbon-intensive sources like coal and gas. Among these, coal is the leading contributor, providing roughly 36% of the global electricity. Meanwhile, low-carbon energy sources, such as hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, and geothermal, make up 39% of our energy mix. Hydroelectricity seems to be the most used low-carbon source at 15%, closely followed by nuclear energy at approximately 9%. Other sources such as wind and solar contribute to roughly 8% and 4.5% respectively, while biofuels and geothermal sources represent a smaller fraction, making close to none contribution.
To increase the amount of low-carbon electricity generation globally, we can take cues from the successful strategies employed by various countries. For instance, France, Ukraine, and Slovakia have effectively utilized nuclear power to generate 61%, 58%, and 57% of their electricity respectively. Similarly, Denmark's leading contribution of wind power at 52% of its electricity production could serve as a viable model for wind energy optimisation. Examples like Ireland and Uruguay, where wind power contributes to 33% and 32% of their respective electricity mix, only strengthen this claim. Finally, exploring the potential of solar energy, as done in Chile and Yemen, where it accounts for 17% of their power, can also be beneficial for reducing global reliance on fossil fuels.
Historically, the use of low-carbon electricity has seen notable fluctuations. In the early 1980s, hydroelectric power saw a substantial increase with about 242 TWh in 1980, while the same decade witnessed a promising surge in nuclear power reaching as high as approximately 291 TWh in 1985. However, towards the end of the 20th century, the tables turned with a significant drop in nuclear energy, a dramatic decline of about 190 TWh by 2012. It was the early decades of the 21st century that became a turning point for wind and solar energy. Starting with a modest 177.5 TWh from wind in 2017, this sector has seen a steady increase, reaching a peak of nearly 295 TWh in 2022. Solar energy too saw a similar upward trend, with its contribution increasing from 142.3 TWh in 2020 to 253.6 TWh just two years later in 2022.