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Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021

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Solar Power by Country

Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021

The world is adopting renewable energy at an unprecedented pace, and solar power is leading the way.

Despite a 4.5% fall in global energy demand in 2020, renewable energy technologies showed promising progress. While the growth in renewables was strong across the board, solar power led from the front with 127 gigawatts installed in 2020, its largest-ever annual capacity expansion.

The above infographic uses data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to map solar power capacity by country in 2021. This includes both solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power capacity.

The Solar Power Leaderboard

From the Americas to Oceania, countries in virtually every continent (except Antarctica) added more solar to their mix last year. Hereโ€™s a snapshot of solar power capacity by country at the beginning of 2021:

CountryInstalled capacity, megawattsWatts* per capita% of world total
China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ 254,35514735.6%
U.S. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ 75,57223110.6%
Japan ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต 67,0004989.4%
Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช 53,7835937.5%
India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ 39,211325.5%
Italy ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น 21,6003453.0%
Australia ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ 17,6276372.5%
Vietnam ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ 16,504602.3%
South Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท 14,5752172.0%
Spain ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ 14,0891862.0%
United Kingdom ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง 13,5632001.9%
France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท 11,7331481.6%
Netherlands ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ 10,2133961.4%
Brazil ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท 7,881221.1%
Turkey ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท 6,668730.9%
South Africa ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 5,990440.8%
Taiwan ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ 5,8171720.8%
Belgium ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช 5,6463940.8%
Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ 5,644350.8%
Ukraine ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 5,3601140.8%
Poland ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ 3,936340.6%
Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 3,325880.5%
Greece ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท 3,2472580.5%
Chile ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ 3,2051420.4%
Switzerland ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ 3,1182950.4%
Thailand ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ 2,988430.4%
United Arab Emirates ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช 2,5391850.4%
Austria ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น 2,2201780.3%
Czech Republic ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ 2,0731940.3%
Hungary ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ 1,9531310.3%
Egypt ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ 1,694170.2%
Malaysia ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ 1,493280.2%
Israel ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ 1,4391340.2%
Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ 1,42870.2%
Sweden ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช 1,417630.2%
Romania ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด 1,387710.2%
Jordan ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ด 1,3591000.2%
Denmark ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ 1,3001860.2%
Bulgaria ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ 1,0731520.2%
Philippines ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ 1,04890.1%
Portugal ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น 1,025810.1%
Argentina ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท 764170.1%
Pakistan ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฐ 73760.1%
Morocco ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 73460.1%
Slovakia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ 593870.1%
Honduras ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ณ 514530.1%
Algeria ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฟ 448100.1%
El Salvador ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ป 429660.1%
Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท 41450.1%
Saudi Arabia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 409120.1%
Finland ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ 391390.1%
Dominican Republic ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ด 370340.1%
Peru ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช 331100.05%
Singapore ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ 329450.05%
Bangladesh ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฉ 30120.04%
Slovenia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ 2671280.04%
Uruguay ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡พ 256740.04%
Yemen ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡ช 25380.04%
Iraq ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ 21650.03%
Cambodia ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ญ 208120.03%
Cyprus ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ 2001470.03%
Panama ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฆ 198460.03%
Luxembourg ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ 1952440.03%
Malta ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น 1843120.03%
Indonesia ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ 17210.02%
Cuba ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡บ 163140.02%
Belarus ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ 159170.02%
Senegal ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ณ 15580.02%
Norway ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด 152170.02%
Lithuania ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น 148370.02%
Namibia ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฆ 145550.02%
New Zealand ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ 142290.02%
Estonia ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช 130980.02%
Bolivia ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ด 120100.02%
Oman ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ฒ 109210.02%
Colombia ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด 10720.01%
Kenya ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช 10620.01%
Guatemala ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡น10160.01%
Croatia ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท 85170.01%
World total ๐ŸŒŽ 713,97083100.0%

*1 megawatt = 1,000,000 watts.

China is the undisputed leader in solar installations, with over 35% of global capacity. What’s more, the country is showing no signs of slowing down. It has the worldโ€™s largest wind and solar project in the pipeline, which could add another 400,000MW to its clean energy capacity.

Following China from afar is the U.S., which recently surpassed 100,000MW of solar power capacity after installing another 50,000MW in the first three months of 2021. Annual solar growth in the U.S. has averaged an impressive 42% over the last decade. Policies like the solar investment tax credit, which offers a 26% tax credit on residential and commercial solar systems, have helped propel the industry forward.

Although Australia hosts a fraction of Chinaโ€™s solar capacity, it tops the per capita rankings due to its relatively low population of 26 million people. The Australian continent receives the highest amount of solar radiation of any continent, and over 30% of Australian households now have rooftop solar PV systems.

China: The Solar Champion

In 2020, President Xi Jinping stated that China aims to be carbon neutral by 2060, and the country is taking steps to get there.

China is a leader in the solar industry, and it seems to have cracked the code for the entire solar supply chain. In 2019, Chinese firms produced 66% of the worldโ€™s polysilicon, the initial building block of silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) panels. Furthermore, more than three-quarters of solar cells came from China, along with 72% of the worldโ€™s PV panels.

With that said, itโ€™s no surprise that 5 of the worldโ€™s 10 largest solar parks are in China, and it will likely continue to build more as it transitions to carbon neutrality.

Whatโ€™s Driving the Rush for Solar Power?

The energy transition is a major factor in the rise of renewables, but solarโ€™s growth is partly due to how cheap it has become over time. Solar energy costs have fallen exponentially over the last decade, and itโ€™s now the cheapest source of new energy generation.

Since 2010, the cost of solar power has seen a 85% decrease, down from $0.28 to $0.04 per kWh. According to MIT researchers, economies of scale have been the single-largest factor in continuing the cost decline for the last decade. In other words, as the world installed and made more solar panels, production became cheaper and more efficient.

This year, solar costs are rising due to supply chain issues, but the rise is likely to be temporary as bottlenecks resolve.

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Electrification

How Clean is the Nickel and Lithium in a Battery?

This graphic from Wood Mackenzie shows how nickel and lithium mining can significantly impact the environment, depending on the processes used.

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How clean is the lithium and nickel in battery

How Clean is the Nickel and Lithium in a Battery?

The production of lithium (Li) and nickel (Ni), two key raw materials for batteries, can produce vastly different emissions profiles.

This graphic from Wood Mackenzie shows how nickel and lithium mining can significantly impact the environment, depending on the processes used for extraction.

Nickel Emissions Per Extraction Process

Nickel is a crucial metal in modern infrastructure and technology, with major uses in stainless steel and alloys. Nickelโ€™s electrical conductivity also makes it ideal for facilitating current flow within battery cells.

Today, there are two major methods of nickel mining:

  • Fromย laterite deposits, which are predominantly found in tropical regions. This involves open-pit mining, where large amounts of soil and overburden need to be removed to access the nickel-rich ore.

  • Fromย sulphide ores, which involves underground or open-pit mining of ore deposits containing nickel sulphide minerals.

Although nickel laterites make up 70% of the worldโ€™sย nickel reserves, magmatic sulphide deposits producedย 60%ย of the worldโ€™s nickel over the last 60 years.

Compared to laterite extraction, sulphide mining typically emits fewer tonnes of CO2 per tonne of nickel equivalent as it involves less soil disturbance and has a smaller physical footprint:

Ore TypeProcessProductTonnes of CO2 per tonne of Ni equivalent
SulphidesElectric / Flash SmeltingRefined Ni / Matte6
LateriteHigh Pressure Acid Leach (HPAL)Refined Ni / Mixed Sulpide Precipitate / Mixed Hydroxide Precipitate13.7
LateriteBlast Furnace / RKEFNickel Pig Iron / Matte45.1

Nickel extraction from laterites can impose significant environmental impacts, such as deforestation, habitat destruction, and soil erosion.

Additionally, laterite ores often contain high levels of moisture, requiring energy-intensive drying processes to prepare them for further extraction. After extraction, the smelting of laterites requires a significant amount of energy, which is largely sourced from fossil fuels.

Although sulphide mining is cleaner, it poses other environmental challenges. The extraction and processing of sulphide ores can release sulphur compounds and heavy metals into the environment, potentially leading to acid mine drainage and contamination of water sources if not managed properly.

In addition, nickel sulphides are typically more expensive to mine due to their hard rock nature.

Lithium Emissions Per Extraction Process

Lithium is the major ingredient in rechargeable batteries found in phones, hybrid cars, electric bikes, and grid-scale storage systems.ย 

Today, there are two major methods of lithium extraction:

  • From brine, pumping lithium-rich brine from underground aquifers into evaporation ponds, where solar energy evaporates the water and concentrates the lithium content. The concentrated brine is then further processed to extract lithium carbonate or hydroxide.

  • Hard rock mining, or extracting lithium from mineral ores (primarily spodumene) found in pegmatite deposits. Australia, the worldโ€™s leading producer of lithium (46.9%), extracts lithium directly from hard rock.

Brine extraction is typically employed in countries with salt flats, such as Chile, Argentina, and China. Itย is generally considered a lower-cost method, but it can have environmental impacts such as water usage, potential contamination of local water sources, and alteration of ecosystems.

The process, however, emits fewer tonnes of CO2 per tonne of lithium-carbonate-equivalent (LCE) than mining:

SourceOre TypeProcessTonnes of CO2
per tonne of LCE
MineralSpodumeneMine9
Mineral Petalite, lepidolite and othersMine 8
BrineN/AExtraction/Evaporation3

Mining involves drilling, blasting, and crushing the ore, followed by flotation to separate lithium-bearing minerals from other minerals. This type of extraction can have environmental impacts such as land disturbance, energy consumption, and the generation of waste rock and tailings.

Sustainable Production of Lithium and Nickel

Environmentally responsible practices in the extraction and processing of nickel and lithium are essential to ensure the sustainability of the battery supply chain.

This includes implementing stringent environmental regulations, promoting energy efficiency, reducing water consumption, and exploring cleaner technologies. Continued research and development efforts focused on improving extraction methods and minimizing environmental impacts are crucial.

Sign up to Wood Mackenzieโ€™s Inside Track to learn more about the impact of an accelerated energy transition on mining and metals.

 

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Life Cycle Emissions: EVs vs. Combustion Engine Vehicles

We look at carbon emissions of electric, hybrid, and combustion engine vehicles through an analysis of their life cycle emissions.

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Life Cycle Emissions: EVs vs. Combustion Engine Vehicles

According to the International Energy Agency, the transportation sector is more reliant on fossil fuels than any other sector in the economy. In 2021, it accounted for 37% of all CO2 emissions from endโ€use sectors.

To gain insights into how different vehicle types contribute to these emissions, the above graphic visualizes the life cycle emissions of battery electric, hybrid, and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles using Polestar and Rivianโ€™s Pathway Report.

Production to Disposal: Emissions at Each Stage

Life cycle emissions are the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted throughout a productโ€™s existence, including its production, use, and disposal.

To compare these emissions effectively, a standardized unit called metric tons of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) is used, which accounts for different types of greenhouse gases and their global warming potential.

Here is an overview of the 2021 life cycle emissions of medium-sized electric, hybrid and ICE vehicles in each stage of their life cycles, using tCO2e. These numbers consider a use phase of 16 years and a distance of 240,000 km.

Battery electric vehicle Hybrid electric vehicleInternal combustion engine vehicle
Production emissions (tCO2e)Battery manufacturing510
Vehicle manufacturing 9910
Use phase emissions (tCO2e)Fuel/electricity production261213
Tailpipe emissions 02432
Maintenance 122
Post consumer emissions (tCO2e)End-of-life -2-1-1
TOTAL 39 tCO2e47 tCO2e55 tCO2e

While it may not be surprising that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have the lowest life cycle emissions of the three vehicle segments, we can also take some other insights from the data that may not be as obvious at first.

  1. The production emissions for BEVs are approximately 40% higher than those of hybrid and ICE vehicles. According to a McKinsey & Company study, this high emission intensity can be attributed to the extraction and refining of raw materials like lithium, cobalt, and nickel that are needed for batteries, as well as the energy-intensive manufacturing process of BEVs.
  2. Electricity production is by far the most emission-intensive stage in a BEVs life cycle. Decarbonizing the electricity sector by implementing renewable and nuclear energy sources can significantly reduce these vehicles’ use phase emissions.
  3. By recycling materials and components in their end-of-life stages, all vehicle segments can offset a portion of their earlier life cycle emissions.

Accelerating the Transition to Electric Mobility

As we move toward a carbon-neutral economy, battery electric vehicles can play an important role in reducing global CO2 emissions.

Despite their lack of tailpipe emissions, however, it’s good to note that many stages of a BEV’s life cycle are still quite emission-intensive, specifically when it comes to manufacturing and electricity production.

Advancing the sustainability of battery production and fostering the adoption of clean energy sources can, therefore, aid in lowering the emissions of BEVs even further, leading to increased environmental stewardship in the transportation sector.

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