Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
There are a couple of different ways to look at world electricity consumption, and depending on the rubric being used the outcomes can be pretty different. When looking at raw consumption, it’s not usually any surprise that the countries that use the most electricity are also the largest, both in terms of land mass and population. China, the United States, India, and Russia usually top this list. These numbers don’t always paint an exact picture of how much electricity is being used on a person-by-person level, though; for these purposes one would need to look at consumption per capita. Iceland is typically the leader on these charts, followed by the Nordic countries and Canada. These countries tend to have many rural outposts and energy has a long way to travel to get to individual homes and businesses, which can increase overall consumption — as well as cost.
It can be difficult to assign consumption rankings without first gathering a lot of different statistical data. Electricity is used for a lot of different things, and is often drained faster and in greater volumes by industry and major operations than by individuals. Assigning numeric values to nations and localities is usually done a couple of different ways at once. Some authorities look at how much a country uses as opposed to how much it generates, which can give a scaled view of the overall energy exchange. Where energy comes from is also an important consideration; some is hydroelectric, for example, whereas some is generated by burning coal and other natural resources.
Tabulating a nation’s usage on the whole is often the most straightforward way to assign rankings of which is using the most electricity. The top five overall users in the world tend to be, in descending order, China; the United States; India; Russia; and Japan. Even on a list this short there is a great deal of disparity between the top and the bottom, though. Numbers change slightly every year, but recent estimates put China’s annual consumption around 5,322,300,000 megawatts per hour per year (MW/hr/yr), but Japan’s is usually closer to 859,700,000 MW/hr/yr.
Japan is bumped out of the top five by analysts who consider the European Union (EU) as a single entity, which is an increasingly common practice. The EU is made up of many different countries, most of which are quite small on their own. There is a lot that member states share, both economically and environmentally, so on some level it can be useful to consider its consumption as a whole. In these cases, the EU usually ranks number 3, after the US and before India.
Analysts frequently also look at energy usage on a per capita basis, which takes things like overall population into account. These sorts of rankings can give a more descriptive picture of how exactly resources are being used. In nearly all cases the countries that consume the most energy per person aren’t the same as those that consume the most on the whole. The following table shows the top 25 electricity users and their approximate values, in kilowatt hours (kWh).
|country||annual electrcity consumption per capita|
|U.A. Emirates||14,714 kWh|
|United States||12,878 kWh|
|Cayman Islands||9,102 kWh|
|New Zealand||8,525 kWh|
|Virgin Islands||7,681 kWh|
|New Caledonia||7,000 kWh|
|San Marino||6,653 kWh|
A couple of things:
1. A comment here says that almost all of Iceland's electricity comes from geothermal. This is nonsense. By far, the greatest part of it comes from hydro, the rest from geothermal.
2. Wise Geek isn't on the ball when it says that the high use of electricity by the top five countries is indicative of electric heating during winters. Iceland, which ranks no. 1 here, uses almost no electric heating. The amount is explained by very few people in a country with relatively great resources that go into powering industry that requires much power.
Now you guys know.
Apparently, changes in energy consumption has something to do with economic policy too. I saw an article in the paper which said that the European Union's consumption of electricity has gone up considerably in the last decade. The first thing I thought of was economic growth and I was right. But the other reason the author mentioned was the move to liberalize the power sector in the EU.
This policy change seems to have made electricity generation and mobility much easier, which in turn made electricity cheaper. The public has certainly taken advantage of it, they could use more electricity for the same money and they did.
But some sectors, particularly the service sector has benefited a lot
. Not to forget the increased use of electrical equipment and IT equipment. Many kinds of work now rely on computers and electrical devices. There are also more appliances at home now. The appliances themselves are more efficient and cheaper as well as the electricity. If someone couldn't afford a second air conditioner because of electricity bills, they now can.
If you think about all of this happening at the same time, it is not surprising that some of the highest electricity consumers are EU members.
I agree that how these countries source their electricity is as important if not more important than how much electricity they use.
China's electricity, for example, mostly comes from coal, which means that there are serious consequences for the environment. They have had to open so many more coal plants to keep up with their increased electricity needs. There environmental damage is increasing because of it.
I personally don't have a problem with countries using lots of electricity, as long as they use renewable and environmentally safe sources for it. The threat is probably coming from developing countries who are starting to become rich, but don't have a vested interest in renewable energy and more efficient use of resources yet.
I used to think that high usage of electricity somehow meant that a country was more developed or wealthy. I'm not so sure now that it's safe to reach this conclusion. Denmark which is number 25 on this list is obviously as developed as Iceland but only uses about one fourth of the electricity.
I also saw a list for GDP growth rate recently and only found Canada and Sweden from the top five of this list doing well. The U.S. is doing moderately well, at least it's not in the negative. Middle Eastern countries in this list are also growing really well, they have GDP rates over 6% per year, which is just fantastic.
That might not
be an excuse to use more electricity, but one does wonder why some countries use much more electricity than others, and why their economies are not growing as much when compared.
The other interesting thing I noticed is that the two fastest growing countries in the world- China and India are not in this list at all. I do think that they will go up in this list as they grow and their population uses more and more electricity though.
I think it is especially important to note that four of the the top five countries in this chart generate at least 30% of their electricity from renewable sources. Canada generates 65% of its electricity needs from renewable sources, Sweden 45%, Finland 30%, and Iceland, almost all of its electricity from geothermal.
If you were to look at what country uses the most electricity, it would be the United States. The United States uses about 25% of the worlds electricity yet has only 5% of the population. The United States only uses about 10% renewable sources, most of which come from hydroelectric.
If you compare the total consumption between all countries, the top five shape up much different. Looking at these metrics, the top five consumers would be the United States, China, the European Union, Japan, and Russia.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!