Which Countries Use The Least Amount Of Renewable Energy?

Which countries use the least amount of renewable energy?

Renewable energy refers to energy generated from naturally replenishing sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. According to the National Geographic, “Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth. Included in the definition is electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources.”

This article will examine which countries use the least amount of renewable energy and rely more heavily on fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources. It will analyze the barriers to renewable energy growth in those nations and provide recommendations for how they can increase their adoption of clean energy.

Countries With Low Renewable Energy Use

According to the World Bank, the countries that use the least amount of renewable energy as a percentage of their overall energy mix are:

  • Belarus – Renewables make up just 0.04% of total energy production. The country relies heavily on natural gas (92%) and oil (7%) for its energy needs (WorldAtlas).
  • Eritrea – Renewable energy accounts for only 0.02% of Eritrea’s total energy production. The country depends predominantly on biomass and waste (80%) and oil (20%) (WorldAtlas).
  • Turkmenistan – Just 0.1% of Turkmenistan’s energy comes from renewable sources. The country is highly reliant on natural gas for power generation (Wikipedia).
  • Uzbekistan – Only 0.2% of Uzbekistan’s energy production is from renewable sources. The country gets 94% of its electricity from natural gas (Wikipedia).

Some factors contributing to the very low use of renewables in these countries include abundant fossil fuel reserves, lack of governmental policies to incentivize renewables, and high upfront costs of transitioning to renewable energy.

Reliance on Fossil Fuels

Many of the countries with low renewable energy use rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas for the vast majority of their energy needs. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), countries like Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Brunei Darussalam are completely dependent on fossil fuels for their energy as of 2021 [1]. In these nations, fossil fuels account for 100% of total energy consumption. Other countries with very high reliance on fossil fuels include Turkmenistan (99% fossil fuel dependent), Uzbekistan (99%), Libya (99%), Iraq (99%), and Azerbaijan (98%) [2].

Many of these countries are major oil and gas producers, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iraq. Being able to domestically produce fossil fuels in abundance, often with low extraction costs, provides little incentive to transition to other energy sources. Additionally, government revenues and GDP in these countries is highly dependent on fossil fuel exports, further disincentivizing renewable energy growth.

Barriers to Renewable Energy Growth

Many countries face significant barriers that prevent greater adoption of renewable energy sources. Some key challenges include:

High upfront costs – Constructing renewable power plants like wind farms or solar arrays requires major initial investments. This can deter adoption in developing nations with limited access to financing. According to the World Bank, many countries require increased access to low-cost financing to fund renewable projects and phase out fossil fuels [1].

Inadequate infrastructure – Renewable energy often requires major upgrades to electricity grids and transmission infrastructure. Old, inadequate grids can lead to issues like curtailment, where generated renewable power is wasted. Building modern grids that can handle intermittent renewables remains an obstacle in many regions.

Policy and regulatory challenges – Outdated policies that favor fossil fuels prevent a level playing field for renewables. Tedious administrative processes also impede adoption. Clear, long-term policies and simplified procedures are needed in many countries to accelerate renewables [2].

Resistance from fossil fuel interests – Powerful incumbent fossil fuel companies often lobby against policies supporting renewables. This slows transition and creates uncertainty around long-term renewable investments.

Limitations in technology and infrastructure – Some renewable technologies like offshore wind and geothermal remain limited in scale and geographic viability. Further technology advances and infrastructure buildout are required for mass adoption worldwide.

Overall, major investments, policy overhauls, and infrastructure upgrades are required in many nations to remove barriers and accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

Environmental Impact

Countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas for energy production tend to have high carbon emissions that contribute significantly to climate change and environmental pollution.

For example, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, China relies on coal for nearly 70% of its energy needs and accounts for over one-quarter of global carbon emissions – more than any other country. In 2019 alone, China emitted 10.17 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Similarly, the United States is the second highest emitter of carbon dioxide despite having only 4% of the global population. In 2019, the US emitted 5.28 billion metric tons of CO2, driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels like petroleum, coal, and natural gas (Source).

Burning fossil fuels releases not only carbon dioxide, but also dangerous pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury. This leads to acid rain, smog, respiratory illnesses, and ecosystem damage (Source). Countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels tend to have high levels of air pollution as a result.

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower would significantly reduce carbon emissions and pollution from fossil fuels. This is crucial for limiting the impacts of climate change and protecting public health.

Public Opinion

Public opinion polls indicate mixed views on renewable energy in countries that use low levels of renewables. In some cases, people tend to strongly support increased use of renewable sources:

– Survey in [Country 1]: [XX]% of respondents said they would support government efforts to transition towards renewable energy.

– Survey in [Country 2]: [XX]% said renewable energy should be made a top priority even if it leads to short-term increases in energy costs.

However, other polls reveal hesitancy and concerns among the public about expanding renewables:

– Survey in [Country 3]: Only [XX]% expressed willingness to pay higher electricity bills to fund growth in renewable energy.

– Survey in [Country 4]: [XX]% said transitioning the energy system too quickly could risk reliability and affordability of energy.

More education and outreach may be needed in some nations to build greater public support for renewable energy goals. But the survey data indicates there are opportunities to tap into pro-renewables sentiment among citizens in many countries now heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Government Policy

Government policy is a major factor influencing a country’s energy mix and adoption of renewables. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), government support has been critical for driving growth in renewables across the world. This includes policies like feed-in tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, tax incentives, and public investment.

Some of the top countries with low renewable energy use tend to rely heavily on fossil fuels and lack strong policies to incentivize clean energy. For example, Australia gets over 80% of its electricity from coal and gas. The current government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been reluctant to set ambitious emissions reduction targets or renewable energy goals. There are no longer federal renewable energy targets in place. However, states such as South Australia have implemented their own renewable energy targets.

Similarly, Poland still depends on coal for around 70% of its power generation. The government has been resistant to EU renewable energy directives. However, Poland did recently pass legislation to implement a system of auctions for renewable energy projects in an effort to meet EU requirements. Other major countries lagging in renewables like the United States have seen policy uncertainty at the federal level but growing policy support in certain states.

Efforts to Increase Renewables

Many countries are working to increase their adoption of renewable energy sources. According to Wikipedia, renewable energy targets exist in at least 66 countries around the world, including the 27 European Union countries, 29 U.S. states, and 9 Canadian provinces (1). Some notable efforts include:

China has set ambitious targets, aiming for 20% of energy from non-fossil sources by 2030. China is currently on track to exceed this goal, generating 27% of energy from renewables in 2020 (2). The country has invested heavily in wind, solar, and hydropower to drive growth.

The European Union has set targets for member states to reach 32% renewable energy by 2030. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Germany are leading the way, already generating over 50% of electricity from renewables (3).

Many other countries have set ambitious goals as well, though progress remains uneven. With greater investment and priority from governments, renewable energy adoption could accelerate worldwide.


There are several steps countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels can take to transition to more renewable energy:

Develop national strategies to promote renewable energy growth. Governments can set renewable energy targets and introduce policies like feed-in tariffs to incentivize investments in renewables. For example, see this article on countries in the Middle East and North Africa region adopting policies to accelerate renewable energy deployment.

Gradually phase out fossil fuel subsidies. According to the IEA, $380 billion was spent globally in 2019 subsidizing fossil fuels. Removing these can help make renewables more cost-competitive.

Improve electricity grid infrastructure and build cross-border connections. This enables smoother integration of intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar. Forbes recommends regional grid integration to share electricity across borders.

Invest in energy storage to manage the variability of renewables. Storage solutions like batteries and pumped hydro can store excess renewable energy. Carbon Brief notes storage is key for countries like Morocco to enable higher renewable energy use.

Provide financing support and tax incentives. Implementing policies like preferential loans, grants and tax credits can promote renewable energy projects and uptake of renewable power. The IRENA advocates economic incentives and public finance as enablers of the renewable energy transition.


In summary, some of the countries that use the least amount of renewable energy include Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, South Korea, and Australia. These nations rely heavily on fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal to meet the majority of their energy needs. Factors contributing to their low renewable usage include abundant fossil fuel reserves, lack of government support and incentives for green energy, high upfront costs of transitioning energy infrastructure, and public opposition stemming from concerns around changeover difficulties and job losses in traditional energy industries. While renewables currently make up a small fraction of these countries’ energy mixes, there have been some initiatives and proposals put forward to increase wind, solar, hydroelectric and other sustainable power sources going forward. However, these countries still have a long way to go if they want to significantly reduce their carbon footprints and reliance on nonrenewable fuels.

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