What’s Powering the World?

10 Visuals That Illustrate Energy Trends

Energy isn’t just a driving force in the markets, it’s the lifeblood of the world. Yet in each country, the state of energy is different.

While clean energy production climbs in some regions, fossil fuels are growing in importance in others. All the while, our needs are increasing while our traditional reserves are dwindling, increasing both competition and innovation.

In this VC+ special dispatch, we paint a clear picture of energy consumption and production today, as well as where energy is likely headed.

To see the full version of any of the below graphics, click on the preview image or link. We encourage you to explore them in their full glory.
Infographic #1 
Fossil Fuels by Country

Global growth was largely driven by fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal over the last few centuries, both in economic terms and with regards to energy.

By visualizing countries by their contribution to total fossil fuel production, we get a better understanding of where that impact is coming from.

As countries are beginning to reassess their reliance on fossil fuels, the need for more energy (and wealth) continues to drive growth in fuel production.

>> Examine the size of countries by their contribution to total fossil fuel production
Infographic #2 and #3
Mapping Oil & Coal Production

Though much of the world is developing and consuming fossil fuels, mapping fuel production by type shows clear discrepancies.

When it comes to oil discoveries, it’s a case of the haves and the have-nots. Entire economies and nations have been built on oil and gas, but discoveries are limited in size and location.

In fact, of the 1,232 biggest oil discoveries from 1868 to 2010, 15 of the largest 20 are located in the Middle East.

On the other hand, coal production was spread more globally over the last hundred years, but an interactive map of the world’s coal power plants shows a changing landscape.

As signified above, coal plants are being shut down in North America and Europe but rapidly coming online in Asia.

While 14 of the world’s 78 coal-powered countries are planning total phaseouts of unabated coal, China now consumes a staggering 45% of the world’s coal.

>> Dive into the world’s largest oil discoveries and the evolving map of coal power plants
Infographic #4 and #5
Comparing Energy Sources

Energy today doesn’t mean just fossil fuels. It encompasses a number of renewable and non-renewable sources each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Looking at the world’s largest energy sources by power station output, for example, shows the vast differences in output and potential.

Renewables like wind and solar are still lagging behind fossil fuels for the most part, though they’re starting to make up ground, while hydro and nuclear are far and away the largest sources.

But which energy source is the safest? Just as important as output is minimizing the dangers caused by energy sources.

Surprisingly, nuclear energy edged out renewables in death per TWh, with fossil fuels far in rear. That’s despite the inclusion of massive incidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima. 

With countries worldwide assessing their upcoming energy needs alongside safety and climate concerns, every point of differentiation counts.

>> See world’s largest energy sources and compare the safety of different energy types
Infographic #6
Unmet Needs

The need for more energy isn’t just isolated to the futureit’s a very current problem for large chunks of the world.

In fact, mapping the global access to electricity shows the estimated 1.2 billion people without access today.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the most energy poverty, but pockets exist in Asia and Latin America as well, and large countries like India are still on their way to 100% access.

That’s causing each region to address its energy needs in different ways: some need energy immediately, while others are only focused long-term.

>> Discover the varying global access to electricity
Infographic #7 and #8
Focus on Sustainable Energy
With the issues of energy access and climate change weighing differently on each country, it’s no surprise that energy policies for the future vary widely.

One method of ranking each country is from a sustainability perspective, looking at the “trilemma” of energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability.

The rankings vary widely based on access to different energy sources and economic needs, with Europe leading the pack on policy and renewable energy focus.

While renewable energy is relatively new, technological leaps made over the last few decades have driven costs down and potential up.

The worldwide capacity of renewable energy has increased from 1,336 GW in 2010 to 1,995 GW in 2015, on pace to hit 4,347 GW in 2020.

One reason for increased renewable efficiency is massive investing, with $298 billion spent on renewable power generation in 2017 compared with $132 billion on fossil fuels.

>> Look into the rankings of each country’s energy policies and the global transition to renewable energy
Infographic #9 and #10
The World’s Future Energy
What will the global energy landscape look like in the next few decades? Depending on current policies holding or shifting, the picture becomes very different.

One projection of the world’s energy mix in 2040 highlights that current policies are leading to increased consumption of both renewables and fossil fuels.

Under the Stated Policies scenario, oil is projected to remain the world’s largest energy source at 28% of global mix, with slight declines only to coal consumption.

Policies will need to significantly shift towards sustainability to alter the global energy mix. That will require new policies, consumption practices, technologies, and metals.

Though consumption of sustainable energy is already projected to increase, the capacity and underlying demand will have to significantly ramp up.

And as new technology requires mined metals, sustainable mining practices and recycling will become a greater focus.

>> See the projected global energy mix for 2040 and the energy metals needed for sustainable development and consumption
The world has always needed energy, both for the present and the future. With a growing and demanding population, those needs are ever present and rising.

But our understanding of each energy source is developing, and so are their capabilities. Work being done in energy today is shaping our consumption, and our planet, tomorrow.

“We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources.”