The size of the industry

How big is the electricity industry? Tables 1.1 and 1.2 provide the answer. Table 1.1 shows the amount of electricity generated across the globe in 2000. Production is broken down in the table both by region and by type.

Gross electricity generation in 2000 was 14,618 TWh. This is equivalent to roughly 1,670,000-MW power stations running continuously for a year. In fact, the actual global installed capacity in 2000 was over twice that, 3,666,000 MW.1

When generation is broken down by type, thermal generation is seen to be dominant. This category refers to power generated from coal, oil or gas. These three fuels were responsible for 9318 TWh, 64% of all the electricity generated in 2000. Hydropower was the next most important source, providing 2628 TWh (18%) with nuclear power a close third (2434 TWh, 17%).

Table 1.1 World electricity production (in TWh), 2OOO

Thermal

Hydro

Nuclear and

Geothermal

Total

power

power

other power

power

North America

2997

6S8

830

99

4S84

Central and South

2O4

S4S

11

17

777

America

Western Europe

136S

SS8

849

75

2847

Eastern Europe and

1O44

2S4

266

4

1S68

former USSR

Middle East

42S

14

0

0

439

Africa

334

7O

13

0

417

Asia and Oceana

2949

S29

465

43

3986

Total

9318

2628

2434

238

14,618

Source: US Energy Information Administration.2

Source: US Energy Information Administration.2

Table 1.2 World electricity generating capacity (in GW), 2000

Thermal

Hydro

Nuclear and

Geothermal

Total

power

power

other power

power

North America

662

176

110

17

965

Central and South

68

115

3

3

189

America

Western Europe

360

147

128

14

648

Eastern Europe and

299

80

49

0

428

former USSR

Middle East

97

4

0

0

101

Africa

82

20

2

0

104

Asia and Oceana

684

171

70

5

930

Total

2252

713

362

39

3366

Source: US Energy Information Administration.3

Source: US Energy Information Administration.3

Regionally, North America produced the largest amount of electricity in 2000, followed by Asia and Oceana. The most striking regional figure is that for African production, 417 TWh or less than one-tenth that of North America. Central and South America also has an extremely low output, 777 TWh. If one wants to identify the poorest regions of the world, one needs to look no further than this table.

Table 1.2 provides figures for the actual installed generating capacity which existed across the globe in 2000. The figures here broadly mirror those in Table 1.1, but there are one or two features to note.

Firstly global nuclear capacity is only half that of global hydropower capacity but contributes almost as much electricity. This reflects the fact that hydropower plants cannot run at 100% capacity throughout the year because they depend on a supply of water and this will vary from season to season. Nuclear power plants, by contrast, work best if they are always operated flat out.

Secondly the gross capacity, 3366 GW is twice as much generating capacity as is required to generate the electricity in Table 1.1, if every station was running flat out all the time. Clearly many plants are working at less than half capacity. We have already seen that hydropower cannot run at full capacity. There will, in addition, be spare capacity in many regions of the world that is only called on during times of peak demand.

We might also note, as both tables indicate, that Central and South America rely on a renewable source, hydropower, for the majority of their electricity. In every other region of the world, thermal power plants are dominant. The composition of the world's power generating capacity is not likely to remain static. New types of generation are becoming ever more competitive and these can be expected to prosper as the present century advances. Renewable technologies, in particular, will advance as environmental concerns and the cost of fossil fuels restrict the use of thermal power stations. What these advancing technologies are and how they work forms much of the subject matter for the remainder of this book.

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