Global electricity generation by energy source 2017

As global society moves towards newer, alternative sources of energy, conventional fossil fuels remain a significant part of electricity generation. In 2017, coal, peat, and oil shales accounted for 38.5 percent of electricity generation, in comparison to the eight percent from non-hydro renewables and waste sources. Different energy sources require different methods to generate electricity. Fossil fuels like coal and natural gas use thermal power, while nuclear power requires nuclear fission. Renewable sources like wind uses rotation energy, while geothermal sources uses the heat from underground to generate electricity.

How is electricity generated?

An electricity generator converts a form of energy into electricity through mechanical energy. One of the most common generators uses an electromagnet – which produces several small currents as it rotates. These smaller currents combine to form a larger current that becomes the electricity for consumers to use. Commonly, electricity generation is elicited through power plants that use a turbine or other machinery to drive the generators. There are many types of turbines, including combustion gas turbines, hydroelectric turbines, and wind turbines. Energy sources, such as solar photovoltaic cells, do not require turbines and can convert sunlight directly into electricity .

Distribution of electricity generation worldwide in 2017, by energy source*

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Release date

September 2019



Survey time period


Supplementary notes

* Excludes pumped storage
** Includes geothermal, wind, tide, wave and energy. biofuels, waste, heat and other.

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