What is electricity? It sounds like a silly question and I’m sure you know. You use it every day. Light your home. Cook your meals. You warm your food. It powers most of your home appliances and electronics to make your life easier. It’s only fair to know where it comes, how much of it you’re using and learn a few things about how it powers almost everything around us.
Electricity is a form of energy resulting from the existence of charged particles (such as electrons or protons), either statically as an accumulation of charge or dynamically as a current. That’s the dictionary definition. In simple words, electricity is a type of energy that can build up in one place or flow from one place to another.
There are two main types of electricity: Static Electricity, generated by rubbing two or more objects causing friction to build up or Current Electricity, generated by the flow of electrical charge through a conductor across an electrical field. Static electricity is electricity that gathers in one place. Current electricity is electricity that moves from one place to another.
Electricity is a secondary energy source which means that we get it from the conversion of other sources of energy, like coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear power and other natural sources, which are called primary sources. Electricity is most often generated at a power plant by electromechanical generators, primarily driven by heat engines fueled by combustion or nuclear fission but also by other means such as the kinetic energy of flowing water and wind. Other energy sources include solar photovoltaics and geothermal power.
Electricity is also referred to as an energy carrier, which means it can be converted to other forms of energy such as mechanical energy or heat. Primary energy sources are renewable or nonrenewable energy, but the electricity we use is neither renewable nor nonrenewable.
Despite its great importance in daily life, few people probably stop to think about what life would be like without electricity. Like air and water, people tend to take electricity for granted.
Before electricity became widely available, about 100 years ago, candles, whale oil lamps, and kerosene lamps provided light, iceboxes kept food cold, and wood-burning or coal-burning stoves provided heat.
Scientists and inventors have worked to decipher the principles of electricity since the 1600s. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla made notable contributions to our understanding and use of electricity.
Benjamin Franklin demonstrated that lightning is electricity. Thomas Edison invented the first long-lasting incandescent light bulb.
Before 1879, direct current (DC) electricity was used in arc lights for outdoor lighting. In the late 1800s, Nikola Tesla pioneered the generation, transmission, and use of alternating current (AC) electricity, which reduced the cost of transmitting electricity over long distances. Tesla’s inventions brought electricity into homes to power indoor lighting and into factories to power industrial machines.
Here are 20 electricity statistics to reflect on:
- In 2018, world gross electricity production was 3.9% higher than in 2017. Year on year, global electricity production has grown each year continuously since 1974, except for between 2008 and 2009, when the global financial crisis caused an appreciable decline in production.
- In 2018, non‑OECD countries’ share of production reached 58.0% of world electricity generation – more than double the share they held in 1974, Annual production growth between 2010 and 2018 averaged 0.3% in OECD countries, compared with 4.8% in non‑OECD countries.
- In 2018, generation from combustible fuels accounted for 66.3% of total world gross electricity production. Combustible fuels include coal and coal products, oil and oil products, natural gas, biofuels including solid biomass and animal products, gas/liquids from biomass, industrial waste and municipal waste.
- In 2018, the world total electricity final consumption reached 22 315 TWh, 4.0% higher than in 2017. In 2018, OECD total electricity final consumption was 9 728 TWh, 1.8% higher than in 2017, while final electricity consumption in non-OECD countries was 12 587 TWh, an increase of 5.7% from 2017.
- In 2019, about 4,118 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) (or about 4.12 trillion kWh) of electricity were generated at utility-scale electricity generation facilities in the United States.
- Total worldwide gross production of electricity in 2016 was 25,082 TWh. Sources of electricity were coal and peat 38.3%, natural gas 23.1%, hydroelectric 16.6%, nuclear power 10.4%, oil 3.7%, solar/wind/geothermal/tidal/other 5.6%, biomass and waste 2.3%.
- In 2015, hydropower generated 16.6% of the world’s total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity and was expected to increase by about 3.1% each year for the next 25 years. Hydropower is produced in 150 countries, with the Asia-Pacific region generating 33% of global hydropower in 2013.
- In 2014, the share of world energy consumption for electricity generation by source was coal at 41%, natural gas at 22%, nuclear at 11%, hydro at 16%, other sources (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, etc.) at 6% and oil at 4%. Coal and natural gas were the most used energy fuels for generating electricity.
- Electricity generation from total combustible fuels accounted for 57.1% of total OECD gross electricity production (compared to 71.7% for non-OECD). Globally, electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind (+12.4%) and solar (+24.3%) registered robust growth.
- Much of the growth in OECD electricity consumption since 1974 has taken place in the residential and commercial and public services sectors. In 2018, the industry was still the largest end-use sector for electricity consumption. However, the industry’s share of consumption has been in long term decline, and is now only marginally greater than that of the residential, and commercial and public services sectors.
- The remaining consumption sectors – transport, agriculture and fishing – are relatively small consumers of electricity. However, road transport has recently experienced strong growth in electricity consumption as electric vehicles gain market share across OECD countries, in particular in Europe.
- The four largest non-OECD consumers of electricity in 2018 were the People’s Republic of China, India, the Russian Federation and Brazil, which together represent 38. 0% of global consumption. Among these countries, China has the largest share, at 47.8% of total non‑OECD consumption.
- Electricity use outside the OECD is dominated by industrial demand, which accounts for half of final electricity consumption.
- Electricity trade between neighboring countries has become much more common in recent years. In the OECD, imports of electricity grew from 89 TWh in 1974 to 491 TWh in 2019, representing an average annual growth rate of 3.9%, compared to the 2.0% growth in overall electricity supply. Substantial trade in electricity occurs in OECD Europe, where electricity imports grew at an average annual rate of 4.0% between 1974 and 2019. About 63% of this electricity generation was from fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases. About 20% was from nuclear energy, and about 18% was from renewable energy sources.
- China produces the most electricity from hydroelectric power, some 856.4 billion kilowatt-hours a year – more than double the amount produced by Brazil, in second place. The top three is completed by Canada, which produces 376.7 billion kilowatt-hours a year.
- In a sign of great progress, over 120 million people worldwide gained access to electricity in 2017. This means that for the first time ever, the total number of people without access fell below 1 billion according to new data from World Energy Outlook 2018.
- According to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are seven countries already at, or very, near 100% renewable power: Iceland (100%), Paraguay (100%), Costa Rica (99%), Norway (98.5%), Austria (80%), Brazil (75%), and Denmark (69.4%)
- Access to electricity (% of the population) in Australia was reported at 100% in 2018, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.
- At least 50% of the entire populations in 38 of the 49 sub-Saharan countries live without electricity — worse off, 51.4 million of 54.3 million people (94.7%) living in Liberia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone and Malawi do not have electricity.
- New York City uses 11, 000 Megawatt-hours of electricity on average each day. One megawatt represents the amount needed to power 100 homes! (1 Megawatt = 1,000 KiloWatt = 1,000,000 Watt….. So New York uses 11 Billion Watt-hours per day…..now cover those rooftops with Solar!
Sources: International Energy Agency. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Wikipedia.
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