Solar Energy in Wealthy and Poor Countries

Marco Stanchi
December 18, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: Beach solar panels on the German-Polish border between Ahlbeck and Swinoujscie. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In understanding the incentives for using solar energy, I thought it would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between a country's wealth and their solar energy usage. To measure this, I took the GDP numbers for the top three countries and the bottom three countries (as ranked) and compared their solar energy usage numbers to effectively see if there is any connection.


To measure the potential relationship, I used numbers as provided by the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016 to and the World Bank, both of which are reliable sources. [1,2] The BP Review specifically gives the renewable energy consumption by countries while the World Bank offers the GDP by country, both for the year of 2015. The BP review submits their consumption values in the unit of MTOE (million tonnes oil equivalent) which I personally converted to the SI unit of joules.


Country Name Rank GDP Renewable Energy Consumption Total Energy Consumption Percentage of Renewable to Total Energy
USA 1 $1.795 × 1013 3.00 × 1018 J 9.548 × 1019 J 0.03%
China 2 $1.086 × 1013 2.62 × 1018 J 1.261 × 1020 J 0.02%
Japan 3 $4.123 × 1012 6.07 × 1017 J 1.877 × 1019 J 0.03%
Samoa 184 $7.610 × 108 1.25 × 1016 J 2.566 × 1018 J 0.004%
Dominica 187 $5.380 × 108 1.80 × 1017 J 4.186 × 1018 J 0.04%
Tonga 188 $4.340 × 108 1.25 × 1016 J 2.566 × 1018 J 0.004%
Table 1: Top 3 GDP Nations vs. Bottom 3 GDP Nations. [1,2]

The numbers in the table indicate that the countries with higher GDP numbers have a higher renewable energy consumption.


As seen in the table above, there seems to be a correlation between a country's wealth and their renewable energy usage. The United States has one of the highest GDPs along with Germany and they are the top two countries for renewable energy consumption.

This is likely due to the costs associated with using renewable energy. The installation of solar panels and other instruments are very expensive and may not be quite affordable in those low-income countries yet. However, the likes of Dominica shows promise with their relatively high renewable consumption level relative to their GDP.

© Marco Stanchi. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Gross Domestic Product 2015," World Bank, October 2016.

[2] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016," British Petroleum, June 2016.