23 billion megawatt hours. That's the amount of electricity that was used worldwide in 2018. For a real-world comparison, that's enough electricity to power the Eiffel Tower, Time Square, and the Las Vegas Strip for almost 8000 years. Or you could boil a kettle 7.7 trillion times.
As the need for energy grows, that number is likely to keep getting bigger but where does that electricity come from?
READ MORE: Formula E's drive for sustainability
On average, globally, the world still relies predominantly on natural resources, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels for the production of energy around 80 percent of it.
As we know, it hasn't come without consequence. The burning of carbon-based natural resources has poisoned the air we breathe, and affected the Earth's atmospheric balance, leaving us in a climate crisis.
As the world continues to develop, so does the demand for energy alternative sources are needed but how do we meet these ends energy demands?
The future of energy production
Trends over the past 10 years show that renewable energy consumption has increased year on year with fossil fuels including coal and oil seeing a recent decline in June 2020. The UK’s record-breaking run without coal fired power came to an end after almost 68 days. With renewable energy making up 47 percent of the UK electricity share.
Five-and-a-half-thousand miles across the Atlantic; Costa Rica is a world leader on this front with 99 percent of its electricity provided by renewable energy for the third consecutive year.
These are big statements and huge leaps in the right direction that require tremendous infrastructure.
In Costa Rica, it's all about water. Huge hydroelectric plants capitalise on the country's fast flowing rivers to generate more than 78 percent of their electricity.
In the UK, 30 percent of that 47 percent renewable energy share in early 2020 was provided by wind with more to come thanks to projects like the Dogger Bank wind farm is set to be built around 80 miles off the British coast and we'll have the largest offshore wind turbines ever built, with blades more than 100 metres long.
The renewable energy generated from these giant turbines is likely to hit up to 3.6 gigawatts - enough to power four and a half million homes and around 5 percent of the UK electricity demand.
In Morocco, North Africa, the largest concentrated solar farm in the world provides 580 megawatts of electricity. The power this mammoth solar farm produces saves just shy of 800,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
For something a little different, work has begun on the Viking LNG project, soon to become the world's longest electricity interconnector essentially a super long cable that allows cleaning energy travels 760 kilometres between the UK and Denmark, energy sharing projects like this will play a huge role in helping to decarbonize national power supply.
Zero carbon challenge
As perfect as a world powered by clean renewable energy sounds, is it realistic for every country and the billions who need power? Carbon emissions targets require drastic change worldwide to become as carbon neutral as possible.
There are a handful of countries whose use of fossil fuels for energy are around all-time lows, but much of the developing world still relies heavily on oil, gas and coal and the ability to switch to renewable energy isn't as feasible.
“The challenge to go to zero carbon emissions cannot be overestimated. We're used to turning lights on and expecting the lights to go on when we flip the switch. So, we need energy on demand. There are two farms that we know of today. One is nuclear the other is fossil fuelled. When the wind stops far for two weeks or a month, you're not going to stop industry, or live in the dark," said Steven Chu, Stanford University professor and former US Secretary of Energy.
“How do we provide access to affordable electricity and energy to every human being in this world, so they have a shot at economic development and their own prosperity that ought to be a human right?” said Arun Majumdar, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University.
A long way to go
As it stands globally, figures suggest that the future of energy is heading in the right direction. But unless there is drastic change or more international support for developing countries, there's still a long way to go before the need for fossil fuels is relinquished entirely.
The global population is expected to grow by around 2 billion over the next two decades, standards of living are improving and with that, comes a bigger demand for energy. It's estimated that the world will need an additional 47 million megawatts of electricity that is currently consumed in order to create the carbon neutral world we need.
There are areas of renewable and clean energy that need massive technological breakthroughs, be it with batteries, green hydrogen, or advanced nuclear energy to make the dream a reality. The need for fossil fuel use isn't just influenced by electricity demand, but by other avenues like transport.
Changes in the transport and automotive industry will continue to play a big role in the future of energy production, and has the potential for long lasting positive impact on everyday life as the cars we drive become more electrified either via battery or hydrogen fuel cells.
The need for the petrol and diesel drops and the development of things like batteries to increase storage capacity, reduce the weight and have longer lives becomes the focus.
In the automotive sector, organisations like Formula E and Extreme E are paving the way for these technological advances - pioneering innovation and giving some of the world's biggest car manufacturers a research and development ground to make breakthroughs in battery and energy efficiency.
Having more energy efficient and emission free vehicles is a huge step towards reducing the need for fossil fuels. This switch is becoming more supported by industry and leading car manufacturers around the world who have set targets not just for emission free vehicles, but for carbon neutrality by the utilisation of renewable energy as well.
Large scale changes like this will bring us closer to a future without the need for burning fossil fuels, cleaning the air we breathe and helping to combat further. consequential climate change. The challenge is huge but the target essential the future must be renewable.