As the world's developing economies continue to grow, their energy consumption is rising as well. This is due in large part to increasing demand for electricity, which is the fastest-growing form of energy use. However, amid widespread concerns over global warming, clean energy sources have become ever more important. We wonder: Which fuel is the world's fastest-growing source of energy?
A. Natural gas
B. Nuclear power
C. Hydroelectric power
A. Natural gas is not correct.
Worldwide, the use of natural gas increased by 2.4% per year from 2000 to 2006. The fuel provides 20% of the world's electricity.
Electricity accounts for 40% of the world's total energy consumption, with demand for electricity predicted to grow by 3.2% annually from 2006 to 2015. If current trends continue, total world energy demand is expected to grow by 45% by 2030 — with 97% of this projected increase occurring in developing economies.
B. Nuclear power is not correct.
Nuclear energy use increased by only 1.3% per year from 2000 to 2006 — the slowest growth of any fuel source. It provides 15% of the world's electricity.
However, nuclear power provides 79% of electricity in France, 47% in Sweden and Ukraine and 37% in South Korea. It accounts for just 19% of electricity in the United States — even though the country is the world's largest producer, with a 29% share of the world total.
C. Hydroelectric power is not correct.
The use of hydroelectric power worldwide grew at an annual rate of 2.5% from 2000 to 2006. It currently provides 16% of the world's electricity — down from 21% in the early 1970s.
In comparison, the use of biomass grew by 2.1%. Other forms of renewable energy — such as geothermal, wind and solar — increased at a slightly higher rate, 3.1%. However, altogether these sources supply only 2.3% of the world's electricity.
D. Coal is correct.
Global coal use, mainly for power production in developing countries, grew by 4.9% per year between 2000 and 2006 (according to the International Energy Agency). This is faster than the rate of growth for any other fossil fuel — and for any form of renewable energy.
Overall, coal provides about 40% of the world's electricity, a share that has actually increased slightly over the last three decades — despite the negative environmental consequences. China is by far the world's largest coal producer, accounting for nearly half of the world's supply.