Energy mix: definition and composition

Each nation uses the energies at its disposal to meet its needs. This defines for each of them what is called the energy mix. Although the numbers are quite different from nation to nation, fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy mix globally, accounting for more than 80% of the total.


The term “energy mix” refers to the mix of different primary energy sources used to meet the energy needs of a specific geographical area. It includes non-renewable resources such as:

  • fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal),
  • nuclear energy,
  • a wide variety of alternative energy sources (wood and other bioenergy, hydro, wind, solar and geothermal energy).

These basic energy sources are used for various purposes, such as the generation of electricity. But also the supply of fuel for vehicles, heating and air conditioning of residential and industrial structures. The proportion of different types of energy in the overall mix varies considerably from one nation or region to another. Moreover, it can change significantly during a single period.

Variables include:

  1. The existence of useful resources in the country, as well as the possibility of importing these resources.
  2. The amount and type of energy needs that must be met.
  3. Historical, economic, social, demographic, environmental and international political factors. All of them play a role in determining political choices.

A global energy mix dominated by fossil fuels

One way to illustrate these disparities is to study the energy composition of the world. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, society has been powered primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. The contribution of coal, oil and gas to the global energy mix in 2018 was close to 85%.

With hydraulic energy (6.8%), other renewable energies (4%) and nuclear energy (4.4%) come far behind. (in second, third and fourth position, respectively.)

Renewable energy sources represent 15.5% of Europe’s total energy consumption. While nuclear energy represents 10.3%.

Yet fossil fuels remain the most important source of energy (74.2%). In France, the breakdown presents a totally different picture, due to the large share of nuclear energy (38.5%). On the other hand, the share of renewable energy sources is lower than the European average, with 10.4%. And the share of coal in the total is insignificant (3.4%).

Energy mix and electricity production mix

Part of the energy mix: a wind farm (aerial view)

The energy mix (or mix) should not be confused with the electricity production mix (also known as the electricity mix). The combination of different types of energy sources used to generate electricity is called the “electricity generation mix”. For this reason, it does not take into account concerns about energy consumption in the transport sector. It also excludes significant parts of the industrial and residential sectors.

This is why the energy mixes that correspond to the different types of electricity production are very different from one another. To take the case of France, the proportion of nuclear energy in the overall electricity production in 2018 was 71.7%. However, this figure rises to 38.5% when taken into account in the country’s energy mix as a whole. The contributions of solar and wind energy are barely noticeable in the energy mix. They are beginning to take on a more substantial role in the mix of sources used to generate electricity.

It should also be mentioned that the data for the primary energy mix and the figures for final energy consumption do not match. The primary energy mix figures take into account the use of all accessible energy sources in a country. And this, whether produced locally or imported. This is due to the fact that the process of transforming primary energy into secondary energy results in the loss of a significant amount of primary energy.

A global challenge, and local issues

A country’s primary energy supply can be seen as its “energy mix”. It then designates the different primary energy sources combined to form the country’s total primary energy supply. To supply electricity to the entire country, very few states depend on a single main fuel. Or even from a single primary energy source. Different energy services often use a variety of sources.

For example, the energy that powers transport in all its forms (cars, trucks, planes and boats) comes almost exclusively from petroleum products (petroleum, diesel and kerosene).

On the other hand, home energy use usually involves the use of natural gas or biofuels for heating and cooking. In most cases, a considerable amount of electricity is consumed by homes. Electricity must come from one or more main energy sources.

The combination of all these energy sources, including energy imported from other countries, is called the country’s energy mix. When people talk about altering the planet’s energy mix, they often fail to consider the full complexity of that mix. Instead, they tend to focus on specific aspects of the energy mix.

For example, many people consider changing the proportion of different types of energy used to generate electricity. But they do so regardless of the amount of oil required for transportation.

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Each nation uses the many forms of energy at its disposal in a proportion that allows it to meet its energy needs. The composition of the energy mix is ​​presented here. Although the numbers are quite different from nation to nation, fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy mix globally, accounting for more than 80% of the total.

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