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Top 10 countries for energy sustainability

Which countries lead the world in renewable energy and energy security?

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Topic: Innovation
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Prelude: The world's most energy sustainable countries

Sustainability means many things to different people. Do you define sustainability as using as many renewable resources as possible? (Do you count nuclear?) Does it mean using the cleanest sources possible? (Do you count natural gas?) Does sustainability mean sourcing energy domestically no matter how clean or dirty? Does it mean being able to provide energy for as many people in the world as possible?

How you define sustainability can stir up plenty of contention, but in a new report the World Energy Council takes an all-of-the-above look at the energy sustainability in countries around the world.

The organization's Energy Sustainability Index ranks 129 countries based on three criteria: energy security (the effective management and reliability of domestic energy resources); energy equity (how accessible and affordable energy is for the whole population); and environmental sustainability (development of renewable and low-carbon energy sources).

Read on to see which countries succeed in all three areas.

Photo: Flickr/vituh

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
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1. Switzerland

Energy mix (electricity generation): 55.5% hydroelectric, 38.9% nuclear, 4% other renewables, 1.6% conventional thermal 

The good: Exceptional in all three categories. Low fossil fuel use for electricity. Energy equity is best in the world. 

The bad: Imports about half of all energy.

WEC outlook: "To achieve the transition to a low-carbon energy system in the long term, in the short term Switzerland is likely to become more dependent on gas-fired electricity generation."

Photo: Flickr/Hurni Christoph

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2. Denmark

Energy mix: 64.7% conventional thermal; 35.3% other renewables; 0.1% hydroelectric 

The good: Moves up three places from last year. Continues to move toward goal of 100% renewables in energy and transportation sectors by 2050.

The bad: Energy equity is the country's biggest struggle, but improving.

WEC outlook: "Despite a decline in oil stocks, continued efforts to further diversify the electricity generation portfolio leave the country in a strong position to meet future energy demand."

Photo: Flickr/Elise Grandjean

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3. Sweden

Energy mix: 45.5% hydroelectric, 38% nuclear, 11.7% other renewables, 4.8% conventional thermal

The good: Low fossil fuel use. High percentage from low and no-carbon sources.

The bad: Increasing energy consumption offsetting energy diversity. Transportation sector very reliant on fossil fuels.

WEC outlook: "Policymakers need to focus on finding a solution to replace the existing 10 nuclear reactors that will be taken out of operation gradually to meet the future electricity demand."

Photo: Flickr/jgraham

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4. Austria

Energy mix: 57.4% hydroelectric, 31.7% conventional thermal, 10.9% other renewables

The good: Renewable energy production has doubled since 1980. Energy independence is increasing.

The bad: Energy consumption growth rate outpacing economic growth. CO2 emissions growing after large drop in 2012.

WEC outlook: "Policy developments in Austria and targets for 2020 are compatible and in line with EU policy."

Photo: Flickr/Magnus von Koeller

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5. United Kingdom

Energy mix: 76.5% conventional thermal, 15.8% nuclear, 6.7% other renewables, 1% hydroelectric

The good: High marks in all three categories. Energy consumption growth rate is falling. 

The bad: Very high fossil fuel use. Energy production is declining.

WEC outlook: "The UK remains a ‘Pack Leader’ and continues to balance the energy trilemma very well, with excellent performance on all three energy dimensions."

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Nigel Cox

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6. Canada

Energy mix: 58.9% hydroelectric, 23.4% conventional thermal, 14.6% nuclear, 3.1% other renewables

The good: Rose four spots from last year. Strong energy security as a top energy exporter. Strong diversification away from fossil fuels.

The bad: Poor environmental performance with many energy-intensive resource development industries.

WEC outlook: "The two main challenges Canada faces are: 1) balancing resource development with environmental protection; and 2) developing diverse markets for Canada’s energy resources."

Photo: Flickr/one.juniper

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7. Norway

Energy mix: 95% hydroelectric, 3.9% conventional thermal, 1.1% other renewables

The good: Low reliance on fossil fuels.

The bad: Low energy diversity. Weak energy security.

Photo: Flickr/Statkraft

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8. New Zealand

Energy mix: 55.9% hydroelectric, 25.6% conventional thermal, 18.6% other renewables

The good: Economic growth rate outpacing energy consumption growth rate. Increased domestic energy production.

The bad: Increasing gasoline and electricity prices making energy less equitable.

WEC outlook: "New Zealand is well-positioned in the Index. It could yet see further improvements due to its progressively improving macroeconomic position, and its strong potential to increase renewable energy sources in electricity and heat generation, thereby lowering CO2 emissions and improving environmental sustainability performance without the need for subsidies."

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/QFSE Media

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9. Spain

Energy mix: 45.6% conventional thermal, 20.5% nuclear, 19.4% other renewables, 14.5% hydroelectric

The good: Diversified energy portfolio. Large energy mix from low and no-carbon sources. Reasonably priced energy.

The bad: Large energy importer. 

WEC outlook: "Policymakers need to continue focusing on several challenges such as the need for a higher electricity interconnection power grid capacity with other European member states, its ageing nuclear system, and the upcoming rises in the cost of electricity related to Spain’s tariff deficit reduction objective."

Photo: Flickr/Bilfinger SE

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10. France

Energy mix: 75.5% nuclear, 11.4% hydroelectric, 9.7% conventional thermal, 3.3% other renewables

The good: Low fossil fuel use. Improved energy diversity.

The bad: Increased energy consumption growth rate

WEC outlook: "The three sides of the energy trilemma remain relatively well-balanced in France, although energy security lags slightly behind."

[Go here for the full list]

Photo: Flickr/Andrea Kirkby

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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