5 of 6 Cleared up, added counterargument

No, wind power does not account for less than half a percent of total global energy usage in 2014.

The wording of the report (from Jordys answer)indicates that they compared electrical output of renewables to the energy contents of combustibles. Putting these on the same graph is wrong by the definitions of primary energy which they refer to.

The caveat of this answer is that it is based on the definition of primary energy. The authors should have mentioned it, if they made the analysis while regarding the difference between primary and secondary energy for renewables.

Primary and secondary energy

Primary energy (1,3) is the energy contained in a fuel. So to speak the released heat in perfect combustion. Unburnt fuel is part of many energy conversion cycles. It is not the generated useful energy.

Non-Fuel based primary energy would be the input to the system, not the generated useful energy. For wind turbines this would be the energy contained in the wind, a perfect wind turbine can only get around 60% of the winds energy (Betz's law). For solar we have around 15-20% conversion efficiency.

Secondary energy (1,3) is the energy of energy carriers, these are for example fuels and electricity. Fuel can be an input for electricity generation, so even there are subclasses regarding the quality of the secondary energy. (Oil would be primary, gasoline a secondary energy in some regards, even though we don't use all of the energy in gasoline either)


The graphs compare apples to oranges. Primary wind power should get a factor of 2-4, solar power a factor of 5-8 and hydro should also get some factor (but this is more difficult to figure out). I'm not sure how they calculated biomass, so I won't go into that.

The graphs are representing primary energy according to an outdated definition, as renewables are wrongfully represented by their secondary energy.

I see no indication in their report that they addressed the issue of defining primary energy with regards to renewables.

It seems that they used coals primary energy correctly, as opposed to the secondary electrical energy created by the power plants.

Exaggerated alternative data (just to make a point)

Primary solar energy heats the earth during the whole year, if we assume that heating needs(relative to the avg temperature of space of a few Kelvin) are met by solar power, we get about 99.9+% (didn't calculate it actually) of the primary energy in solar.


A claim arguing that the definition of primary energy is usually as probably envisioned by the authors of the Energy Report, from Ref 3:

The primary energy is transformed to secondary energy in the form of electrical energy or fuel, such as gasoline, fuel oil, methanol, ethanol, and hydrogen. The primary energy of renewable energy sources, such as sun, wind, biomass, geothermal energy, and flowing water is usually equated with either electrical or thermal energy produced from them.

Additional references:

  1. Hall, Carl W., and George W. Hinman. Dictionary of Energy. Marcel Dekker, 1983. pages 222,240

  2. Report on Photovoltaics by the German Frauenhofer Institute for solar energy systems, slide 6

  3. Demirel, Yaşar. Energy: production, conversion, storage, conservation, and coupling. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. Chapter 2