Global patterns of energy

Global energy supply and consumption is not evenly distributed. Some places have an energy surplus, whereas others have an energy deficit.

Exploring the issues linked to the distribution of primary energy sources and how this links to energy security

Global energy supply

Different countries have the potential to exploit different amounts and types of energy. In general:

  • Saudi Arabia, Russia and the USA produce the most oil. Around 66% of global oil supplies are found in the Middle East. As technology improves, new supplies can be discovered and accessed more easily. There are huge, barely tapped reserves in South America, Africa and the Arctic.
  • The USA, Russia and China have the largest coal reserves. Around 70 countries have coal reserves and there is enough coal left to last for another 112 years.
  • Russia, Iran and Qatar have the largest natural gas reserves. At present, around 40% of the UK's natural gas comes from the North Sea, although production has decreased as profits have fallen. Globally, there is enough natural gas to last for around 50 years.
  • Australia, Kazakhstan and Russia have the largest uranium reserves. Uranium is a non-renewable resource used to generate nuclear power. Uranium reserves are expected to last for another 90 years.
The top oil producers are Saudi Arabia, Russia, USA, Iran and Mexico.

Oil reserves

The potential to generate renewable energy is determined by a country's location. Islands have the potential for wave power and tidal power, windy places can generate wind power, sunny countries can generate solar power, wet places with steep relief can generate hydroelectric power (HEP) and countries close to plate boundaries can generate geothermal power.

Global energy consumption

It is estimated that global energy consumption in 2040 will be 56% higher than in 2010. The growth in energy consumption will largely take place in developing countries.

Energy consumption has decreased slightly in the USA, UK and Germany between 2000 and 2012. It has increased slightly in Brazil, Russia, Ghana and Kenya. It has increased greatly in China and India.

Reasons for increasing energy consumption

Global energy consumption is rising. There are four main reasons for this:

  1. Affluence – newly emerging economies (NEEs) like China are seeing the biggest growth in energy consumption. This is because the standard of living in these countries is improving and so more people are buying things like technology for the home and cars. Energy use in middle income countries (MICs) is high, but stable as populations are steady and new technologies help to conserve energy.
  2. Population - global population is increasing. It reached 7 billion people in 2011 and it is estimated to reach 9.5 billion around 2050. Everyone uses energy and so this leads to a greater consumption of energy.
  3. Technology - the development of new technologies means that more people are using energy. The use of mobile devices and computers has increased and these all require energy to power them.
  4. Economic reasons - factories and offices are run using energy. As countries develop economically, they build more factories and offices for people to work in.