World Energy Council ranks U.S. No. 12 in energy sustainability

By Erin Voegele | December 03, 2012

The World Energy Council recently published its Energy Sustainability Index, which shows that most countries are still far from achieving fully sustainable energy systems. According to the WEC, the index reveals that environmental impact mitigation remains to be a universal problem, and that providing high-quality, affordable energy access is a significant challenge for developing and emerging economies. In addition, the index demonstrates that countries at various stages of development struggle with energy security.

“Much still needs to be done to make our energy systems sustainable, but there is good news,” said Joan MacNaughton, executive chair of the World Energy Trilemma report, which includes the index. “As our Energy Sustainability Index shows, countries that use a larger share of low-carbon energy such as renewables and nuclear as part of a diversified energy mix, tend to perform better. While these top performers also tend to be richer countries, some less affluent ones do also outperform their economic peers. What distinguishes all these countries from the others is that they have more effective and coherent policies.” 

Out of more than 90 countries indexed, the U.S. achieved an overall ranking of 12. Regarding energy performance, the U.S. ranked 13. However, the rankings varied greatly under the three subsections of energy performance, including a ranking of 27 for energy security, the No. 1 ranking for social equity, and ranking of 31 for environmental impact mitigation. Under the category of contextual performance, the U.S. ranked 15, with the subcategories of political strength, societal strength and economic strength respectively ranked at 26, 20, and 16.

With regard to diversity of power generation, the report noted that the U.S. only gets 4 percent of its power from renewable resources other than hydro. In comparison, conventional thermal fossil fuels generate 70 percent of our nation’s power, with nuclear at 20 percent and hydro at 6 percent. The index also states that the per capital rate of CO2 emissions in the U.S. is 17.51 metric tons, which the WEC calls “very high compared to other countries and slightly increased during the last year.” While biofuels are mentioned under the profiles of several countries, they are not specifically mentioned in the U.S. profile.

The top 10 performing countries in the WEX index are Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Japan, France and Austria.

The index is published within WEC’s 2012 World Energy Trilemma report, titled “Time to get real—the case for sustainable energy policy.” A full copy of the World Energy Trilemma 2012 Energy Sustainability Index can downloaded from the WEC website