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Published on July 2nd, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan


Solar Power Per Capita & Wind Power Per Capita Leaders (Charts)

July 2nd, 2015 by  

Historically, I have created reports on the world’s solar power per capita and wind power per capita leaders. However, I’m a bit late getting to those this year. So, I was happy to find on Renewables International that Switzerland’s SolarSuperState Association now produces these as well.

As is always the case, these relative rankings (which I prefer) make some unexpected countries shine, and make some big countries look like laggards.

Interestingly, Liechtenstein (which is, admittedly, tiny) now leads the pack in the solar power per capita rankings, with Germany (the clear leader for years) close behind, and Italy solidly in third. China and the USA barely make it on the list.

solar power per capita

On the wind front (no pun intended), there is admittedly some confusion and apparent errors. “Denmark Kingdom” is #1… err, what? Denmark is very likely #1, followed by the UK, but it’s not clear what SolarSuperState has done to end up with “Denmark Kingdom” (which is also in the solar rankings above). Anyhow, Sweden shows up next, which is not too surprising considering its strong presence in previous years, and then several other European countries (Spain, Ireland, Germany, and Portugal). The USA and China are again on the list, but certainly not superstars.

wind power per capita

Naturally, the “Denmark Kingdom” error means that I really need to do the wind report still (and probably put this higher on my ~70-item long-term to-do list… which seems to only grow), but the other big reason I’m eager to do these reports is that I go beyond per capita rankings — I also like to rank the countries per GDP and relative to electricity production (when I have enough data). As Craig Morris aptly writes, “per capita rankings are not the best metric. Americans, for instance, consumed several times more electricity than Germans, so in terms of ambition and commitment we should cut the US number in half for that comparison.”

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • dahszil

    We have countries that have less sunshine that are beating the hell out of the US in solar power use per capita(person per 100,000). Solar capture is so sensitive today that you can capture a significant amount of energy on a cloudy day. In Germany you have 483 per capita but the US is only 58 per capita. The fossil fuel industry determines US energy policy not the government. In fact corporatocracy runs the US government.

  • Could it ibe that the most interesting statistics would be not installed capacity per citizen or per GNP, but hvow big percentage of national energy consumption is covered by wind, by sun etc. and by all renewable energy sources combined?
    Just a few days ago it made big headlines that for a few hours, Danish windmills made 140% of total Danish energy consumption. But the important number is that during first half of 2015, wind power made 43% of total energy consumption.

  • NRG4All

    It’s good to see that the Vartican is backing up the Pope’s paper on supporting renewable energy by making it on the list in a respectably high position.

    • Larmion

      Most of the Vatican’s solar was installed under Benedict. Who, like John Paul II before him, was every bit as environmentally conscious (and sadly every bit as homophobic) as the current one. The largest arrays were installed as long ago as 2008 and 2010.

      The main difference was that Benedict sucked at PR, whereas Francis has better media training than your average politician.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I don’t know if Francis has better media training or not.

        I suspect that Francis, like Elon, gets a lot of media attention due to how he does his job.

  • Antony Berretti

    And the United Kingdom is where? Should be in the top 5 and clearly someone has made a big error…..!

    • nakedChimp

      Maybe they mapped it onto the commonwealths population? 😉

    • Yeah, I would expect so.

      I need to do my report….

  • onesecond

    The US should better get its game together. Lacking ambition and trailing are not things one likes to be known for.

    • Martin

      Well that goes for Canada as well.
      I was surprised to see Canada on the wind list at all, but that would be due to provincial targets/input.

    • windbourne

      Utilities are fighting solar, but wind is growing fast. In the next year, it is expected that wind will be cheap enough to take on our nat gas without subsidies which will then drive most utilities to push wind.

      • Calamity_Jean

        “In the next year, it is expected that wind will be cheap enough to take on our nat gas without subsidies which will then drive most utilities to push wind. “

        That’s good, because the wind subsidy ended at the end of 2014. A wind rush could start later this year if the fracked gas wells fall off in production enough.

  • Ross

    In the first 6 months of this year Ireland got 25% of its electricity from wind. https://www.siliconrepublic.com/earth-science/2015/07/02/25pc-of-irish-energy-demand-met-by-wind-in-first-half-of-2015 and it is driving down wholesale prices.

  • Chris Drongers

    What happened to Australian solar? 4.2GW of solar (mainly on household roofs) for a population of 25 million ->160W per capita.

  • Koenraad Coel

    Belgium fourth in solar? Now there’s a surprise. People here in Belgium are always telling me that we don’t have enough sunshine for efficient PV. Guess that’s not exactly correct then.

    • Larmion

      Well, your friends are not entirely wrong. These graphs rank countries according to how much PV is installed per person. But capacity says nothing about actual production: the same installed capacity in a sunny clime will obviously be more productive than in our miserable little country.

      Belgium’s high ranking in solar and low ranking in wind power, which is cheaper and has a time of production that matches our demand profile much better, is a tragedy. Had we invested more in wind, we would produce much more power during winter, when demand is high and when our last remaining (and highly polluting) coal and liquid fuel plants run at full blast. Solar, on the other hand, just displaces a bit of natural gas.

      Of course, taking a stand against the anti-wind NIMBY’s takes political courage. Heavily subsidizing rooftop PV (certificates AND net metering combined to make a level of subsidy unheard of anywhere else), on the other hand, is an effective way of buying votes.

      • Koenraad Coel

        Good point. The way we subsidized rooftop solar was so badly thought out as to be almost sabotage. I sometimes feel it did more to create suspicion and jealousy against rooftop PV owners then it did to displace energy production.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Copenhagen receives more than two-thirds as much sunshine as Sydney in Australia does. That’s more than enough for point of use solar to pay for itsellf at Australian or German installation costs. (Don’t know how much it costs to install in Denmark.)

  • DecksUpMySleeve

    The world needs to follow Germany’s lead, big time. Just wait to see their economics in 10 years..
    Also the graphs appear to be top 20s.

    Still surprises me how well Germany does with such low solar irradiance. They literally get half what other nations would with the same panels.

    • nakedChimp

      One can only hope that the Chinese and Indians look at this carefully and find the numbers exiting.. they should be over this like hair on soap.

    • NYS

      Sure solar is very popular in Germany, but it’s a major headache for the grid. Germany’s grid is a MESS.

      • Bob_Wallace

        That’s a claim we hear from the right wing press and friends of the fossil fuel industry.

        But when one looks at the facts they see a highly reliable grid and decreasing prices.

        I suppose if there are headaches being caused by renewables it’s for those who are in the coal industry. Can’t think of a better crowd to make uncomfortable….

        • NYS

          Yea there are headaches because the power grid was built upon huge centralized power plants. That is how they were able to deliver cheap reliable power. As more solar and wind are connected to the grid, it has shown to cause the price per kWh go up. This is very true in Denmark and Germany…. Solar works good if you have it on your roof, it’s a no brainer, because the price we pay for kWh from the utilities will go up and keep going up.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “As more solar and wind are connected to the grid, it has shown to cause the price per kWh go up.”

            No, the wholesale cost of electricity in Germany has decreased. The cost of industrial electricity in Germany has decreased.

            I just gave you graphs in response to another of your comments.

            There has been an upfront cost in getting wind and solar industries built and bringing turbine/panel prices down but those costs are now largely behind us.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “the price we pay for kWh from the utilities will go up and keep going up.”

            As the price of wind and solar continue to decline and we are able to avoid more expensive power from fossil fuel and nuclear plants the cost of electricity will go down.

            Think about what the situation will be 20 years from now when we have a sizable percentage of our electricity coming from paid off wind and solar installations which have an operating cost of a penny per kWh or less.

            Compare that to the price of electricity from a paid off coal, gas or nuclear plant which can run many times higher.

            We’re moving into a world in which new wind and solar will cost ~3 cents per kWh and paid off will cost ~1 cent per kWh.

            A world powered by new nuclear or coal would pay 15+ cents in direct costs (plus external costs). And paid off costs from 2 to 6 cents per kWh.

      • nakedChimp

        Care to point me to any sources for this? Can be in German, I lived there until I was 30, so have no problems with reading and understanding it 😉

        • NYS

          I was recently at a power systems conference (in chicago) and the old guys (coal people) were just trashing Germany because of the cost of power from the grid. The utilities have traditionally supplied cheap power from coal and that’s how the grid was built. adding all the solar has caused the price of electricity in germany to be about 3 times what it is here in the US. I guess that’s what i meant by ‘Mess’.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Have retail grid prices risen in Germany? Sure. Some rise due to subsidy costs but that rise has been tempered by decreasing wholesale prices.

            Let’s look at how costs break out for retail customers in Germany…

            In 2013 the average household electricity rate was about 29 € cents / kWh according to the BDEW (Energy industry association).

            8.0 cent – Power Generation & Sales
            6.5 cent – Grid Service Surcharge

            5.3 cent – Renewable Energy Surcharge

            0.7 cent – Other Surcharges (CHP-Promotion, Offshore liability,…)

            In addition there are some taxes & fees that go straight into the government’s bank account:

            2.1 cent – EcoTax (federal government)
            1.8 cent – Concession fees (local governments)
            4.6 cent – Value added tax (19% on all of the above) – (federal, state & local governments)

            5.3 euro cents added on to retail customers’ bills. (Industry does not help pay the cost.)

            At the same time look what has happened to the wholesale cost of electricity (first two graphs).

            Renewable subsidies will be paid off. At that point German consumers will be paying much less for their electricity and those savings to on into perpetuity. As long as the Sun shines.

            Now take a look at one more graph, the day-ahead wholesale price for baseload (coal) power. That graph should tell you why the “old guys” were upset. Stuck pigs squeal.

          • Jenny Sommer

            29€cent is about the highest price you can pay in Germany.
            If you change the supplier every 12 month it turns out that you only have to pay a little under 19ct/kWh.

            Over 40% of customers in Germany don’t bother to shop around for cheaper power and stay with their base supplier which rips them off by not passing on decreasing wholesale prices but keeps the profit.

            After all German energy cost in % to GDP is rather low.

      • I have directly heard otherwise from a top executive in this field.

      • Ulenspiegel

        Are you really so dum… eh uninformed? Or are you a spare time troll?

        • NYS

          What value does your comment add here? By mess i meant to say that the price of electricity is very expensive in Germany and Mr Wallace provides information that may indicate that prices will fall. We’ll see… I hope so. You are the troll

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, folks, stow the name-calling.

  • Kyle Field

    It’s also going to be interesting as we bring more and more EVs onto the grid. That’s going to triple our household consumption of electricity (which is good)…moving us from ~8 solar panels to cover our usage to ~27 solar panels. This will artificially influence how we look at, calculate and assess solar production capacity.

    For instance, if Germany has 473watts of PV production per capita but has 10% EVs on the road, their usage will start to increase per capita as well, requiring more PV to cover their now higher usage.

    I wouldn’t think we are there yet but perhaps we can start adding a new subchart to electricity consumption charts for EVs. Smaller, more progressive countries might already be there (norway, I’m looking at you) and have a meaningful proportion of EV electricity consumption vs the previous base.

    • Martin

      Yes when we see about 10 % EV’s that may increase electricity use, but that may be offset by not having to use oil for those (refining uses a lot of power).

      • Kyle Field

        Refining is typically very regionalized. I believe most refining in the US is in the NOLA area whereas I would expect EV usage to be concentrated in cali and a few other areas (boston, atlanta, etc) so we should be able to see these swings regionally.

  • Larmion

    The formal name of Denmark is ‘Kongeriget Danmark’, or ‘Kingdom of Denmark’. From there, ‘Denmark Kingdom’ isn’t that far a leap if your English isn’t perfect.

    On the other hand, if that’s the idea, they should have consistently used formal names and also have used ‘Kingdom of Spain’, ‘Kingdom of Belgium’, ‘Kingdom of Sweden’ and so on. Only using the ‘Kingdom’ bit for Denmark is odd indeed.

    • mike_dyke

      In that case, where does the UK rank on those graphs?

      • nakedChimp

        Where is Scotland?

        • No way

          Since Scotland is not a sovreign country but only a region of a sovreign country obviously they will not rank it.

          • nakedChimp

            I know :p
            I meant where is ‘Scotlands Wind’ per capita of UK on that chart there? 😉

        • TF1

          North North West of East Grinstead ?

  • mike_dyke

    I’d half wondered that the EU’s long term plans included taking over the UK, but I didn’t expect it to be done by Denmark! 🙂

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