Saturday, March 22, 2008

Our world needs electricity, lots of it.

(Click to enlarge)

I visited the UN data website and downloaded data about the total electricity production of countries and matched it with their populations in order to obtain the electricity produced per 1000 inhabitants (for each country). I have plotted a histogram of this in the figure above.

This histogram is disturbing.

The smaller issue is that inhabitants of most countries have lesser electricity than the world average. This means that a few energy-rich countries are producing (and probably consuming) most of the world's electricity. I have marked some of the representative countries on the histogram. There is a table at the end of this post containing the parsed data in case you want to look up your own country and/or use the data (After citing the UN data source, off course).

The bigger issue is that countries with low electricity per capita (bars toward the left of the figure) are striving to move the per capita electricity production higher to improve quality of life. For example, both India and China are lower than the world average. And I have the impression that these countries are really looking to improve their citizen's living conditions. And remember, populations are increasing too (see one of my previous posts), making it necessary to pump up electricity production even faster.

Producing more electricity is a positive development. But the problems associated with increasing production are the issue here. Here are some questions:
  1. Where are we going to get the energy to increase electricity production so rapidly?
  2. What will be the environmental cost of creating so much additional capacity? I hope it is renewable energy. Hope. Hope. Hope.
  3. Or, does this analysis indicate that even in the next decades electricity will be a premium, for-the-well-off, limited quantity luxury given the lack of such a massive energy source?

Tough cookies.

We really need a breakthrough with some new technology here.

Here is the table containing data used in the analysis.
Country, million kWh per 1000 inhabitants (German notation: "," is the decimal point)

Afghanistan 0,019507403
Albania 0,529214445
Algeria 0,219150336
American Samoa 0,936753525
Angola 0,032618392
Anguilla 1,036227154
Antigua and Barbuda 0,325148424
Argentina 0,727408376
Armenia 1,07765584
Aruba 1,457768448
Australia 2,492244294
Austria 2,280999506
Azerbaijan 0,617455344
Bahamas 1,40738335
Bahrain 2,551090802
Bangladesh 0,027811644
Barbados 0,739895798
Belarus 0,819169464
Belgium 1,54779036
Belize 0,174199589
Benin 0,006949106
Bermuda 2,726961075
Bhutan 0,549439336
Bolivia 0,149749265
Bosnia and Herzegovina 0,69957433
Botswana 0,118195712
Brazil 0,49861704
British Virgin Islands 0,454215116
Brunei Darussalam 2,030329213
Bulgaria 1,545853099
Burkina Faso 0,005598074
Burundi 0,004199119
Cambodia 0,013614697
Cameroon 0,049170704
Canada 3,765512578
Cape Verde 0,157851016
Cayman Islands 2,346954443
Central African Republic 0,010259031
Chad 0,002858379
Chile 0,798215316
China 0,386906459
Colombia 0,296546128
Comoros 0,006266434
Congo 0,025762836
Cook Islands 0,57208238
Costa Rica 0,44965969
Croatia 0,849392177
Cuba 0,379683488
Cyprus 1,34517727
Czech Republic 1,708438639
Democratic People's Republic of Korea 0,402276274
Democratic Republic of the Congo 0,043802793
Denmark 2,471503772
Djibouti 0,146728575
Dominica 0,353841391
Dominican Republic 0,582812306
Ecuador 0,273103278
Egypt 0,280151791
El Salvador 0,184723191
Equatorial Guinea 0,026854067
Eritrea 0,036892038
Estonia 1,702729723
Faeroe Islands 1,804792034
Falkland Islands (Malvinas) 3,025210084
Fiji 0,199264292
Finland 3,139151247
French Guiana 0,728790884
French Polynesia 0,442041685
Gabon 0,325406584
Gambia 0,018552543
Georgia 0,977777798
Germany 1,51273341
Ghana 0,065320583
Gibraltar 1,202749141
Greece 1,20759618
Greenland 1,844280122
Grenada 0,304075563
Guadeloupe 0,937493585
Guam 3,274604022
Guatemala 0,162208554
Guinea 0,022771058
Guinea-Bissau 0,01315024
Guyana 0,415837246
Haiti 0,023772922
Honduras 0,212566084
Hungary 0,856203515
Iceland 5,200654647
India 0,126738013
Indonesia 0,116874477
Iran (Islamic Republic of) 0,639435492
Iraq 0,300043035
Ireland 1,518598487
Israel 1,541832479
Jamaica 0,425354403
Japan 2,168335174
Jordan 0,389966498
Kazakhstan 1,231640364
Kenya 0,034242581
Kiribati 0,032607632
Kuwait 4,02037037
Kyrgyzstan 0,710476911
Lao People's Democratic Republic 0,08121598
Latvia 0,940571111
Lebanon 0,601385281
Liberia 0,054622645
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 0,865970274
Lithuania 1,330189073
Luxembourg 3,631083653
Madagascar 0,012230063
Malawi 0,01376068
Malaysia 0,829451232
Maldives 0,165934635
Mali 0,0098182
Malta 2,28753381
Marshall Islands 0,303244006
Martinique 1,000262695
Mauritania 0,058047217
Mauritius 0,554314346
Mexico 0,490100396
Mongolia 0,322392649
Montserrat 1,776830135
Morocco 0,172225006
Mozambique 0,115377076
Myanmar 0,024954518
Namibia 0,034659007
Nauru 0,989021857
Nepal 0,022551405
Netherlands 1,3307455
Netherlands Antilles 1,126657796
New Caledonia 1,528705938
New Zealand 2,168356638
Nicaragua 0,099770455
Niger 0,007916051
Nigeria 0,041604152
Niue 0,612745098
Oman 1,189848435
Pakistan 0,123101766
Palau 2,583594177
Panama 0,508432302
Papua New Guinea 0,117468448
Paraguay 1,25604174
Peru 0,228699463
Philippines 0,185003073
Poland 0,844522287
Portugal 1,269159686
Puerto Rico 1,370991383
Qatar 3,553189833
Republic of Korea 1,389956686
Romania 0,876196974
Russian Federation 1,619416414
Rwanda 0,004223616
Saint Helena 0,625097672
Saint Kitts and Nevis 0,407016973
Saint Lucia 0,40932771
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 4,254648598
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 0,29377943
Samoa 0,157741576
Sao Tome and Principe 0,032760677
Saudi Arabia 1,420230761
Senegal 0,048341849
Seychelles 1,110695412
Sierra Leone 0,008771297
Singapore 2,347562131
Slovakia 1,624096551
Slovenia 1,496430224
Solomon Islands 0,02963471
South Africa 0,835171394
Spain 1,888334973
Sri Lanka 0,126093294
Sudan 0,030204543
Suriname 0,859729307
Swaziland 0,122718045
Sweden 3,694381387
Syrian Arab Republic 0,398277093
Tajikistan 0,678298553
Thailand 0,52931205
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 0,767583489
Timor-Leste 0,042163059
Togo 0,007694068
Tonga 0,080514488
Trinidad and Tobago 1,118059532
Tunisia 0,326482221
Turkey 0,532316671
Turkmenistan 0,811252681
Turks and Caicos Islands 0,163538984
Uganda 0,010743706
Ukraine 1,119794335
United Arab Emirates 3,827701301
United Kingdom 1,358755508
United Republic of Tanzania 0,01426794
United States of America 3,558514712
Uruguay 0,629035396
Uzbekistan 0,440301803
Vanuatu 0,055719101
Viet Nam 0,140517355
Western Sahara 0,131690083
Zambia 0,196892977
Zimbabwe 0,178739129

1 comment:

Arun said...

Electricity has emerged as the preferred mode of consumption of energy across the world. This has brought into sharp focus various technologies involved in the production, conveyance and consumption of electricity.

Hydro-electricity is by far the most preferred mode of production as it is cheap and clean as well as a renewable source of energy. However, as the easy availability of flowing water sources for generation has diminished, the world has increasingly shifted to production of thermal and even nuclear power. Thermal power has certain advantages in production as we can better control the generation of this electricity. This becomes necessary as typically power consumption fluctuates not during day and night but also across seasons. For example in much of North America and Europe consumption increases during the winter due to heating requirements. This is precisely the time when production from hydro recourses drops as waters freeze.

The emergence of thermal power as the preferred mode of production has brought into focus the issue of availability of fuels for this purpose. Typically coal has been used the world over for this purpose- though oil rich countries of the middle east has not hesitated to use their vast oil resources for this purpose.
India and China two of the biggest consumers of electricity have both fallen back on the coal resources, as their oil and gas resources are very limited. Coal is a difficult material to handle as it pollutes the atmosphere and coal mining can be dangerous and also has ecological consequences. China's experience in this regard is typical its rapid pace of economic development has meant that China has had to fall back on mining even its small and technically unsafe mines. This has resulted in a great increase in industrials accidents involving deaths and injuries to workers.

Our search for safer and cleaner methods of generating energy have so far shown only limited results. One interesting variation on this theme is Canada's attempts to exploit its vast resources of tar sands. A large amount of oil appears in association with sand in certain part of Canada. Theoretically (and even practically) technologies are available for extraction of oil from these sands. However, recent attempts by the government of Canada to extract oil from tar sands have met with opposition from environmentalists on various grounds.

Nuclear power has been talked about as the fuel of the future. Here again the basic technologies are already available, and in fact a number of plants are being run successfully in countries like US, Great Britain and France. However, the efforts to generate more power from this source received a serious set back after accidents at the Chernobyl plant in Russia and the three mile long island in the USA. The fact is that due to safety considerations nuclear power remains a practical non-starter over much of the world including India.

In my humble opinion in the field of electricity generation we pay all our attention to generation of electricity to the exclusion of losses in electricity during transmission and consumption. If we could improve the quality of transmission equipment and bring down these losses to below 5% as against almost 30% in some cases present it is possible to enhance availability of electricity even without further generation. Similarly, we must also concentrate R&D effort on the power consumption efficiency of all electrical gadgets in use- especially bulbs and other household electrical gadgets. These are some of my views on the subject.