Which countries consume the most electricity per person? You might guess the United States would top the World Bank’s list, but the Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden are actually at or near the top. Icelanders consume an average of 52,374 kilowatt hours per person per year, Norwegians 23,174 kilowatt hours, Finns 15,738 kilowatt hours, and Swedes 14,030 kilowatt hours. Americans are not far behind, with an average consumption of 13,246 kilowatt hours per person. The Japanese consume 7,848 kilowatt hours.
This image is part of a global composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite in 2012. The nighttime view of Earth was made possible by the “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. VIIRS detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, wildfires, and gas flares. The city lights of several major Nordic cities are visible in the imagery, including Stockholm, Sweden (population 905,184); Oslo, Norway (634,463); Helsinki, Finland (614,074), and Reykjavik, Iceland (121,490).
A number of factors are responsible for the high rates of electricity consumption in Nordic countries. Among them: the presence of energy-intensive industries, abundant natural resources that make electricity production affordable, and high demand caused by the region’s long, cold, and dark winters.
Norway and Iceland, in particular, are home to power-hungry industrial sectors. Iceland’s three aluminum smelting plants are the biggest electricity consumers in that country. Though they do not make for noticeably bright lights in the image of Iceland above, together the smelting plants use more than five times as much electricity as all of the country’s inhabitants. Norway has a higher rate than Sweden and Finland because it uses electricity to heat its homes and water more so than its neighbors.
Despite the high rates of consumption, the production of the electricity in Nordic countries is based mainly on renewable energy sources and yields minimal amounts of greenhouse gases.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using VIIRS Day-Night Band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Adam Voiland.