World renewable energy consumption projection

A year ago, about the time when I together with some others started a sustainability event series at Mindpark, I got curious: are we moving fast enough when it comes to the energy transition?

I thought maybe it is possible to just get an overview of that, so  I googled for data. And data there was – the site had info listed on global energy consumptions, in a way that was useable to see how the trend has been going for the last 30+ years.

I thought: what happens if we just take the past trend, and project it into the future?

Said and done, and I did a post about it last year (in Swedish, but the graphs tell their own tale)

That post made me hopeful – if we just take the trend from 2015-2019 for all renewable energy sources, and project it into the future, we will have more renewable energy production 2037 then we have global energy consumption! And by 2038 we would produce a massive 60.000 TWh more then needed globally (an overproduction of over 25% of world energy consumption by then!).

That blogpost also made it clear: it is mainly two sources of renewable that make all the difference: wind and solar. Nuclear, hydropower and everything else makes really little difference, unless the speed of building them increases 10x or more, which is just not realistic.

This is also why overproduction is important in the long run, as that makes the challenge of solar and wind being intermittent much less of a problem.

How is it now in 2023?

However, I was not wondering, a bit over one year later – now there is more data available, and have the number for 2020 (2021, which is available now as well) been going as projected by this very simple model?

The answer is both better and worse.

A big challenge in doing these projections is to decide what years should be reference years for determining the yearly increase. Last post I used 2015-2019, 5 years. This is rather short time, but as this was before pandemic (and war in Europe) I felt they would be OK. Also, including a longer period would have made the increase bigger. So I opted for a “pessimistic” approach, and took just the last 5 years, as I assumed that as especially wind and solar matures, the rate of increase might be slower than at the earlier years.

If you want to see all energy sources and historic details, all the data is in a Google spreadsheet here.

What is worse?

Using that same approach for the data now, means the years 2017-2021 become reference years. This shows that the rate of increase have lowered for the two most important energy sources in this perspective: wind and solar. Wind was in the last blogpost I wrote growing at 14.5% yearly on average 2015-2019. Now on average 2017-2021 it has grown at 13.6%. So a decrease in speed.

For solar the numbers where 28.9% for 2015-2019, and it is for 2017-2021 25,4%, which is an even bigger decrease.

This affects the future trends, as solar and wind are the most important drivers. Making the same projecting with this data, moves the year when renewables is higher than world energy consumption back two years, to 2039 from 2037. Moving the goal back two years in an blogpost one year later, is of course a very bad sign (as it would say the goal is moving away further if this continues, with next year it being moved to 2041 maybe and so forth…)

What is better?

However, when looking at the numbers, the number are rather better than projected. This is because update their numbers, and the numbers where actually better in 2019 than what was initially reported last year by them. So my projections last year where that by 2021 wind power should be 4641 TWh, while the numbers released now show that it was 4872 TWh. For Solar it was however lower, my projections said 2979 by 2021, while the actual number was 2702 TWh.

When doing this for all renewables, my projections said all renewable energy sources by 2021 should be in total producing 27127 TWh. In the data released it is shown to have been 28161 TWh by 2021, so over 1000 TWh better. So the actual numbers are moving better than the projections.

Why are the numbers different?

I actually do not know why the historic data is different from And this makes all of the data in this post very uncertain – and highlight this is really just a very rough estimate and projections. This is not very scientific, and is basically done for myself as an interesting thought-experiment. But I thought might be interesting for more, and therefor I made this post and shared it.

And I am looking forward to seeing how the data, and projections, look next year!


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