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Until industrialization in the 18 th and 19th centuries, energy supply was mainly based on renewable energies, especially biomass and hydro. Rising demand and new technologies led to better living and working conditions, but also to an ecologically harmful change in the energy supply. Today there are important differences in the energy systems of OECD countries and developing countries respectively, as indicated in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Characteristics of global primary energy demand, 2000

Fossil fuels


Nuclear (%)

Growth rate, all


energy (%)

sources (%/yr,







Developing countries




Source: IEA (2004)

In OECD countries, which have reached a very high level of development, gains in energy efficiency have been the main strategy used to decrease energy consumption. In developing countries, where renewables (mainly biomass) are already very important (see Table 3.1), albeit used in inefficient ways, modernization of their usage seems the better strategy to follow.

As Figure 3.3 shows, around 14 per cent of total world energy (around 425 EJ in 2002) is provided by renewable energies. Apart from biomass (meaning here combustible renewables and waste), hydro has the highest share. The 'new' renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal energy contribute less than 1 per cent of global production.

In developing countries the non-commercial use of solid biomass ranks bio-energy before hydropower and other renewable sources of energy. According to the IEA Renewable Information, 48.4 per cent of global biomass consumption takes place in Africa. This is mainly accounted for by domestic cooking and household heating in stoves, fireplaces and domestic and district heating boilers.

Today, about 33 billion litres per year of biofuels is used commercially in North and South America, Europe and South Africa. As a whole, Europe has the largest biodiesel production capacity, estimated at 2.3 million litres per year in

Other 0.5%

Coal 23.5%

Hydro 2.3%

Combustible Renewables and Waste (CRW) 11.0%

Geothermal 0.442%

Figure 3.3 Global primary energy demand, 2000

more than 40 dedicated installations, mostly in Germany, France, Italy and Austria. Germany is currently the largest producer, accounting for almost half of the global biodiesel production.

World ethanol production rose to nearly 41 billion litres in 2004, of which 73 per cent was for fuel. The countries with the highest current use of fuel ethanol are Brazil (14.6 billion litres, corresponding to roughly 30 per cent of the country's non-diesel motor fuel use in 2004) and the US (14.3 billion litres). The two countries together are responsible for almost 70 per cent of total production, followed by China (9 per cent), India (4 per cent) and France.9

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