Energy development

Further information: Outline of energy development
Energy development

Schematic of the global sources of energy in 2010

Total Renewables split-up by source
Source: Renewable Energy Policy Network[1]

World total primary energy production


World total primary energy production

  Total world primary energy production (quadrillion Btu)[2]
   United States
   Central and South America

Note the different y-axis for total (left) and regional curves (right)

US Energy Use/Flow in 2011

Estimated US Energy Use/Flow in 2011. Energy flow charts show the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States, with fuels compared on a common energy unit basis.

Energy flow charts show the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States, with fuels compared on a common energy unit basis (2011: 97.3 quads).[3]
Compounds and Radiant Energy
   Natural gas
Producing Electrical Currents/Utilizing Effects Transmitted
   Electricity generation
   Residential, Commercial, Industrial, transportation
   Rejected energy[note 1]
   Energy services

Energy development[4][5][6] is a field of endeavor focused on making available sufficient primary energy sources[7] and secondary energy forms to meet the needs of society.[8][9][10][11][12] These endeavors encompass those which provide for the production of conventional, alternative and renewable sources of energy, and for the recovery and reuse of energy that would otherwise be wasted. Energy conservation[note 2] and efficiency measures[note 3] reduce the effect of energy development, and can have benefits to society with changes in economic cost and with changes in the environmental effects.

Contemporary industrial societies use primary and secondary energy sources for transportation and the production of many manufactured goods. Also, large industrial populations have various generation and delivery services for energy distribution and end-user utilization.[note 4] This energy is used by people who can afford the cost to live under various climatic conditions through the use of heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning. Level of use of external energy sources differs across societies, along with the convenience, levels of traffic congestion, pollution sources[13] and availability of domestic energy sources.

Thousands of people in society are employed in the energy industry. The conventional industry comprises the petroleum industry[note 5] the gas industry,[note 6] the electrical power industry[note 7] the coal industry, and the nuclear power industry. New energy industries include the renewable energy industry, comprising alternative and sustainable manufacture, distribution, and sale of alternative fuels. While there is the development of new hydrocarbon sources,[14]

Types of energy

Open System Model (basics)

Colloquially, and in non-scientific literature, the terms power,[note 8] fuels, and energy can be used as synonyms, but in the field of energy technology they possess different distinct meanings that are associated with them. An energy source is usually in the form of a closed system, the element that provides the energy by conversion from another energy form; However, the energy can be quantitative, the balance sheet is capable of containing open system energy transfers.[note 9] Illustrative of this can be the emanations from the sun, which with its nuclear fusion is the most important energy source for the Earth[note 10] and which provides its energy in the form of radiation.

The natural elements[note 11] of the material world exist in forms that can be converted into usable energy and are resources from which society can obtain energy to produce heat, light, and motion (among the many uses). According to their nature, the power plants can be classified into:

Classified according to the energy reserves of the energy source used and the regeneration capacity with:

So, for example, shale gas is secondary non-renewable. Wind is a primary renewable.

The principle stated by Antoine Lavoisier on the conservation of matter applies to energy development:[note 17] "nothing is created." Thus any energy "production" is actually a recovery transformation of the forms of energy whose origin is that of the universe.

For example, a bicycle dynamo turns in part from the kinetic energy (speed energy) of the movement of the cyclist and converting it into electrical energy will transfer in particular to its lights producing light, that is to say light energy, via the heating of the filament of the bulb and therefore heat (thermal energy). But the kinetic energy of the rider is itself biochemical energy (the ATP muscle cells) derived from the chemical energy of sugars synthesized by plants who use light energy from the sun, which runs from the nuclear energy produced by fusion of atoms of hydrogen. This material itself constitutes a form of energy, called "mass energy."

Fossil fuels

The Moss Landing Power Plant in California is a fossil-fuel power station that burns natural gas in a turbine to produce electricity
Main articles: Fossil fuel and Peak oil

Fossil fuel (primary non-renewable fossil) sources burn coal or hydrocarbon fuels, which are the remains of the decomposition of plants and animals. There are three main types of fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Another fossil fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is principally derived from the production of natural gas. Heat from burning fossil fuel is used either directly for space heating and process heating, or converted to mechanical energy for vehicles, industrial processes, or electrical power generation.

Fossil energy is from recovered fossils (like brown coal, hard coal, peat, natural gas and crude oil) and are originated in degradated products of dead plants and animals. These fossil fuels are based on the carbon cycle and thus allow stored (historic solar) energy to be recycled today. In 2005, 81% were of the world's energy needs met from fossil sources.[15] Biomass is also derived from wood and other organic wastes and modern remains. The technical development of fossil fuels in the 18th and 19th Century set the stage for the Industrial Revolution.

Fossil fuels make up the bulk of the world's current primary energy sources. The technology and infrastructure already exist for the use of fossil fuels. Petroleum energy density in terms of volume (cubic space) and mass (weight) ranks currently above that of alternative energy sources (or energy storage devices, like a battery). Fossil fuels are currently economical, and suitable for decentralised energy use.

Dependence on fossil fuels from regions or countries creates energy security risks for dependent countries.[16][17][18][19][20] Oil dependence in particular has led to war,[21] funding of radicals,[22] monopolization,[23] and socio-political instability.[24] Fossil fuels are non-renewable, un-sustainable resources, which will eventually decline in production[25] and become exhausted, with consequences to societies that remain dependent on them. Fossil fuels are actually slowly forming continuously, but are being consumed quicker than are formed.[note 18] Extracting fuels becomes increasingly extreme as society consumes the most accessible fuel deposits. Extraction in fuel mines get intensive and oil rigs drill deeper (going further out to sea).[26] Extraction of fossil fuels results in environmental degradation, such as the strip mining and mountaintop removal of coal.

Fuel efficiency is a form of thermal efficiency, meaning the efficiency of a process that converts chemical potential energy contained in a carrier fuel into kinetic energy or work. The fuel economy is the energy efficiency of a particular vehicle, is given as a ratio of distance travelled per unit of fuel consumed. Weight-specific efficiency (efficiency per unit weight) may be stated for freight, and passenger-specific efficiency (vehicle efficiency per passenger). The inefficient atmospheric combustion (burning) of fossil fuels in vehicles, buildings, and power plants contributes to urban heat islands.[27]

Conventional production of oil has peaked, conservatively, between 2007 and 2010.[note 19] In 2010, it was estimated that an investment in non-renewable resources of $8 trillion would be required to maintain current levels of production for 25 years.[28] In 2010, governments subsidized fossil fuels by an estimated $500 billion a year.[29] Fossil fuels are also a source of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to concerns about global warming if consumption is not reduced.

The combustion of fossil fuels leads to the release of pollution into the atmosphere. The fossil fuels are mainly based on organic carbon compounds. They are according to the IPCC the causes of the global warming.[30] During the combustion with oxygen in the form of heat energy, carbon dioxide released. Depending on the composition and purity of the fossil fuel also results in other chemical compounds such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and soot and other fine particulates alternativey. Greenhouse gas emissions result from fossil fuel-based electricity generation. A typical coal plant generates billions of kilowatt hours per year.[31][note 20] Emissions from such fossil fuel power station include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, small particulates, nitrogen oxides, smog with high levels of ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, other heavy metals, and traces of uranium.[32][33]



The Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, a boiling water reactor. The reactors are located inside the rectangular containment buildings towards the front of the cooling towers. The power station produces 63 million kilowatt hours per day.
American nuclear powered ships,(top to bottom) cruisers USS Bainbridge, the USS Long Beach and the USS Enterprise, the longest ever naval vessel, and the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Picture taken in 1964 during a record setting voyage of 26,540 nmi (49,190 km) around the world in 65 days without refueling. Crew members are spelling out Einstein's mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2 on the flight deck.
The Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker NS Yamal on a joint scientific expedition with the NSF in 1994
Main article: Nuclear power

Nuclear power, or nuclear energy, is the use of exothermic nuclear processes,[34] to generate useful heat and electricity. The term includes nuclear fission, nuclear decay and nuclear fusion. Presently the nuclear fission of elements in the actinide series of the periodic table produce the vast majority of nuclear energy in the direct service of humankind, with nuclear decay processes, primarily in the form of geothermal energy, and radioisotope thermoelectric generators, in niche uses making up the rest. Nuclear (fission) power stations, excluding the contribution from naval nuclear fission reactors, provided about 5.7% of the world's energy and 13% of the world's electricity in 2012.[35] In 2013, the IAEA report that there are 437 operational nuclear power reactors,[36] in 31 countries,[37] although not every reactor is producing electricity.[38] In addition, there are approximately 140 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion in operation, powered by some 180 reactors.[39][40][41] As of 2013, attaining a net energy gain from sustained nuclear fusion reactions, excluding natural fusion power sources such as the Sun, remains an ongoing area of international physics and engineering research. More than 60 years after the first attempts, commercial fusion power production remains unlikely before 2050.[42]

There is an ongoing debate about nuclear power.[43][44][45] Proponents, such as the World Nuclear Association, the IAEA and Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy contend that nuclear power is a safe, sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions.[46] Opponents, such as Greenpeace International and NIRS, contend that nuclear power poses many threats to people and the environment.[47][48][49]

Nuclear power plant accidents include the Chernobyl disaster (1986), Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011), and the Three Mile Island accident (1979).[50] There have also been some nuclear submarine accidents.[50][51][52] In terms of lives lost per unit of energy generated, analysis has determined that nuclear power has caused less fatalities per unit of energy generated than the other major sources of energy generation. Energy production from coal, petroleum, natural gas and hydropower has caused a greater number of fatalities per unit of energy generated due to air pollution and energy accident effects.[53][54][55][56][57] However, the economic costs of nuclear power accidents is high, and meltdowns can take decades to clean up. The human costs of evacuations of affected populations and lost livelihoods is also significant.[58][59]

In 2016, strengthening the case of nuclear fission being regarded as a renewable energy, the global effort focused on techniques to economically extract the naturally replenishing uranium found in seawater took a step forward and will prevent "peak uranium", as the quantity of uranium now becoming economically recoverable with the field tested absorbent polymer ropes, is practically inexhaustible.[60][61]

Along with other sustainable energy sources, nuclear power is a low carbon power generation method of producing electricity, with an analysis of the literature on its total life cycle emission intensity finding that it is similar to other renewable sources in a comparison of greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions per unit of energy generated.[62] With this translating into, from the beginning of nuclear power station commercialization in the 1970s, having prevented the emission of approximately 64 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent(GtCO2-eq) greenhouse gases, gases that would have otherwise resulted from the burning of oil, coal or natural gas in fossil-fuel power stations.[63]

As of 2012, according to the IAEA, worldwide there were 68 civil nuclear power reactors under construction in 15 countries,[36] approximately 28 of which in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), with the most recent nuclear power reactor, as of May 2013, to be connected to the electrical grid, occurring on February 17, 2013 in Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Plant in the PRC.[64] In the United States, two new Generation III reactors are under construction at Vogtle. U.S. nuclear industry officials expect five new reactors to enter service by 2020, all at existing plants.[65] In 2013, four aging, uncompetitive, reactors were permanently closed.[66][67]

Japan's 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, which occurred in a reactor design from the 1960s, prompted a rethink of nuclear safety and nuclear energy policy in many countries.[68] Germany decided to close all its reactors by 2022, and Italy has banned nuclear power.[68] Following Fukushima, in 2011 the International Energy Agency halved its estimate of additional nuclear generating capacity to be built by 2035.[69][70]

Fission economics

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the second worst nuclear incident, displaced 50,000 households after radioactive material leaked into the air, soil and sea.[71] Radiation checks led to bans on some shipments of vegetables and fish.[72]

The economics of new nuclear power plants is a controversial subject, since there are diverging views on this topic, and multibillion-dollar investments ride on the choice of an energy source. Nuclear power plants typically have high capital costs for building the plant, but low direct fuel costs.

In recent years there has been a slowdown of electricity demand growth and financing has become more difficult, which affects large projects such as nuclear reactors, with very large upfront costs and long project cycles which carry a large variety of risks.[73] In Eastern Europe, a number of long-established projects are struggling to find finance, notably Belene in Bulgaria and the additional reactors at Cernavoda in Romania, and some potential backers have pulled out.[73] Where cheap gas is available and its future supply relatively secure, this also poses a major problem for nuclear projects.[73]

refer to caption and image description
Two months after the Fukushima I failures, a global public support survey by Ipsos (2011) for energy sources was published and nuclear/fission was found to be the least popular[74]

Analysis of the economics of nuclear power must take into account who bears the risks of future uncertainties. To date all operating nuclear power plants were developed by state-owned or regulated utility monopolies[75][76] where many of the risks associated with construction costs, operating performance, fuel price, and other factors were borne by consumers rather than suppliers. Many countries have now liberalized the electricity market where these risks, and the risk of cheaper competitors emerging before capital costs are recovered, are borne by plant suppliers and operators rather than consumers, which leads to a significantly different evaluation of the economics of new nuclear power plants.[77]

Two of the four EPRs under construction (in Finland and France) are significantly behind schedule and substantially over cost.[78] Following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, costs are likely to go up for currently operating and new nuclear power plants, due to increased requirements for on-site spent fuel management and elevated design basis threats.[79] While first of their kind designs, such as the EPRs under construction are behind schedule and over-budget, of the seven South Korean APR-1400s presently under construction worldwide, two are in S.Korea at the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant and four are at the largest nuclear station construction project in the world as of 2016, in the United Arab Emirates at the planned Barakah nuclear power plant. The first reactor, Barakah-1 is 85% completed and on schedule for grid-connection during 2017.[80][81]

Renewable sources

Wind, sun, and hydroelectricity are three renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.[82] Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, hot water/space heating, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services.[83]

About 16% of global final energy consumption presently comes from renewable resources, with 10% [84] of all energy from traditional biomass, mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from hydroelectricity. New renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels) account for another 3% and are growing rapidly.[85] At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of energy supply. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond.[86] Wind power, for example, is growing at the rate of 30% annually, with a worldwide installed capacity of 282,482 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2012.

Renewable energy resources exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is resulting in significant energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic benefits.[87] In international public opinion surveys there is strong support for promoting renewable sources such as solar power and wind power.[88]

While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas and developing countries, where energy is often crucial in human development.[89] United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that renewable energy has the ability to lift the poorest nations to new levels of prosperity.[90]


Main article: Hydroelectricity
The 22,500 MW Three Gorges Dam in China – the world's largest hydroelectric power station

Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. In 2015 hydropower generated 16.6% of the worlds total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity[91] and is expected to increase about 3.1% each year for the next 25 years.

Hydropower is produced in 150 countries, with the Asia-Pacific region generating 32 percent of global hydropower in 2010. China is the largest hydroelectricity producer, with 721 terawatt-hours of production in 2010, representing around 17 percent of domestic electricity use. There are now three hydroelectricity plants larger than 10 GW: the Three Gorges Dam in China, Itaipu Dam across the Brazil/Paraguay border, and Guri Dam in Venezuela.[92]

The cost of hydroelectricity is relatively low, making it a competitive source of renewable electricity. The average cost of electricity from a hydro plant larger than 10 megawatts is 3 to 5 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour.[92] Hydro is also a flexible source of electricity since plants can be ramped up and down very quickly to adapt to changing energy demands. However, damming interrupts the flow of rivers and can harm local ecosystems, and building large dams and reservoirs often involves displacing people and wildlife.[92] Once a hydroelectric complex is constructed, the project produces no direct waste, and has a considerably lower output level of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) than fossil fuel powered energy plants.[93]


See also: Wind power
Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm in North West England
Global growth of wind power capacity

Wind (primary renewable natural) power harnesses the power of the wind to propel the blades of wind turbines. These turbines cause the rotation of magnets, which creates electricity. Wind towers are usually built together on wind farms. There are offshore and onshore wind farms. Global wind power capacity has expanded rapidly to 336 GW in June 2014, and wind energy production was around 4% of total worldwide electricity usage, and growing rapidly.[94]

Wind power is widely used in Europe, Asia, and the United States.[95] Several countries have achieved relatively high levels of wind power penetration, such as 21% of stationary electricity production in Denmark,[96] 18% in Portugal,[96] 16% in Spain,[96] 14% in Ireland,[97] and 9% in Germany in 2010.[96][98] By 2011, at times over 50% of electricity in Germany and Spain came from wind and solar power.[99][100] As of 2011, 83 countries around the world are using wind power on a commercial basis.[98]

Many of the world's largest onshore wind farms are located in the United States, China, and India. Most of the world's largest offshore wind farms are located in Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom. The two largest offshore wind farm are currently the 630 MW London Array and Gwynt y Môr.

Large onshore wind farms
Wind farm Current
Country Notes
Alta (Oak Creek-Mojave) 1,320  USA [101]
Jaisalmer Wind Park 1,064  India [102]
Roscoe Wind Farm 781  USA [103]
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center 735  USA [104][105]
Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm 662  USA [104][105]
Fântânele-Cogealac Wind Farm 600  Romania [106]
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm 599  USA [107]


Part of the 354 MW SEGS solar complex in northern San Bernardino County, California

Solar energy, radiant light and heat from the sun, is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal electricity, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis.[108][109]

Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute solar energy. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors to harness the energy. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.

In 2011, the International Energy Agency said that "the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global. Hence the additional costs of the incentives for early deployment should be considered learning investments; they must be wisely spent and need to be widely shared".[108]

Photovoltaics (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cells containing a photovoltaic material. Materials presently used for photovoltaics include monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide/sulfide. Due to the increased demand for renewable energy sources, the manufacturing of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays has advanced considerably in recent years.

Solar photovoltaics is a sustainable energy source.[110] By the end of 2011, a total of 71.1 GW[111] had been installed, sufficient to generate 85 TWh/year.[112] And by end of 2012, the 100 GW installed capacity milestone was achieved.[113] Solar photovoltaics is now, after hydro and wind power, the third most important renewable energy source in terms of globally installed capacity. More than 100 countries use solar PV. Installations may be ground-mounted (and sometimes integrated with farming and grazing) or built into the roof or walls of a building (either building-integrated photovoltaics or simply rooftop).

Driven by advances in technology and increases in manufacturing scale and sophistication, the cost of photovoltaics has declined steadily since the first solar cells were manufactured,[114] and the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from PV is competitive with conventional electricity sources in an expanding list of geographic regions. Net metering and financial incentives, such as preferential feed-in tariffs for solar-generated electricity, have supported solar PV installations in many countries.[115] The Energy Payback Time (EPBT), also known as energy amortization, depends on the location's annual solar insolation and temperature profile, as well as on the used type of PV-technology. For conventional crystalline silicon photovoltaics, the EPBT is higher than for thin-film technologies such as CdTe-PV or CPV-systems. Moreover, the payback time decreased in the recent years due to a number of improvements such as solar cell efficiency and more economic manufacturing processes. As of 2014, photovoltaics recoup on average the energy needed to manufacture them in 0.7 to 2 years. This results in about 95% of net-clean energy produced by a solar rooftop PV system over a 30-year life-time.[116]:30


Main articles: Biofuel and Sustainable biofuel
A bus fueled by biodiesel
Information on pump regarding ethanol fuel blend up to 10%, California

A biofuel is a fuel that contains energy from geologically recent carbon fixation. These fuels are produced from living organisms. Examples of this carbon fixation occur in plants and microalgae. These fuels are made by a biomass conversion (biomass refers to recently living organisms, most often referring to plants or plant-derived materials). This biomass can be converted to convenient energy containing substances in three different ways: thermal conversion, chemical conversion, and biochemical conversion. This biomass conversion can result in fuel in solid, liquid, or gas form. This new biomass can be used for biofuels. Biofuels have increased in popularity because of rising oil prices and the need for energy security.

Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermentation, mostly from carbohydrates produced in sugar or starch crops such as corn or sugarcane. Cellulosic biomass, derived from non-food sources, such as trees and grasses, is also being developed as a feedstock for ethanol production. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Bioethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil. Current plant design does not provide for converting the lignin portion of plant raw materials to fuel components by fermentation.

Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils and animal fats. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is the most common biofuel in Europe. However, research is underway on producing renewable fuels from decarboxylation[117]

In 2010, worldwide biofuel production reached 105 billion liters (28 billion gallons US), up 17% from 2009,[118] and biofuels provided 2.7% of the world's fuels for road transport, a contribution largely made up of ethanol and biodiesel. Global ethanol fuel production reached 86 billion liters (23 billion gallons US) in 2010, with the United States and Brazil as the world's top producers, accounting together for 90% of global production. The world's largest biodiesel producer is the European Union, accounting for 53% of all biodiesel production in 2010.[118] As of 2011, mandates for blending biofuels exist in 31 countries at the national level and in 29 states or provinces.[98] The International Energy Agency has a goal for biofuels to meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation fuels by 2050 to reduce dependence on petroleum and coal.[119]


Main article: Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. The geothermal energy of the Earth's crust originates from the original formation of the planet (20%) and from radioactive decay of minerals (80%).[120] The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface. The adjective geothermal originates from the Greek roots γη (ge), meaning earth, and θερμος (thermos), meaning hot.

Earth's internal heat is thermal energy generated from radioactive decay and continual heat loss from Earth's formation. Temperatures at the core-mantle boundary may reach over 4000 °C (7,200 °F).[121] The high temperature and pressure in Earth's interior cause some rock to melt and solid mantle to behave plastically, resulting in portions of mantle convecting upward since it is lighter than the surrounding rock. Rock and water is heated in the crust, sometimes up to 370 °C (700 °F).[122]

From hot springs, geothermal energy has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but it is now better known for electricity generation. Worldwide, 11,400 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power is online in 24 countries in 2012.[123] An additional 28 gigawatts of direct geothermal heating capacity is installed for district heating, space heating, spas, industrial processes, desalination and agricultural applications in 2010.[124]

Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly,[125] but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels.

The Earth's geothermal resources are theoretically more than adequate to supply humanity's energy needs, but only a very small fraction may be profitably exploited. Drilling and exploration for deep resources is very expensive. Forecasts for the future of geothermal power depend on assumptions about technology, energy prices, subsidies, and interest rates. Pilot programs like EWEB's customer opt in Green Power Program [126] show that customers would be willing to pay a little more for a renewable energy source like geothermal. But as a result of government assisted research and industry experience, the cost of generating geothermal power has decreased by 25% over the past two decades.[127] In 2001, geothermal energy cost between two and ten US cents per kWh.[128]


Main article: Marine energy

Marine energy or marine power (also sometimes referred to as ocean energy, ocean power, or marine and hydrokinetic energy) refers to the energy carried by ocean waves, tides, salinity, and ocean temperature differences. The movement of water in the world's oceans creates a vast store of kinetic energy, or energy in motion. This energy can be harnessed to generate electricity to power homes, transport and industries.

The term marine energy encompasses both wave power i.e. power from surface waves, and tidal power i.e. obtained from the kinetic energy of large bodies of moving water. Offshore wind power is not a form of marine energy, as wind power is derived from the wind, even if the wind turbines are placed over water. The oceans have a tremendous amount of energy and are close to many if not most concentrated populations. Ocean energy has the potential of providing a substantial amount of new renewable energy around the world.

100% renewable energy

Main article: 100% renewable energy

The incentive to use 100% renewable energy, for electricity, transport, or even total primary energy supply globally, has been motivated by global warming and other ecological as well as economic concerns. Renewable energy use has grown much faster than anyone anticipated.[129] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that there are few fundamental technological limits to integrating a portfolio of renewable energy technologies to meet most of total global energy demand.[130] At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of energy supply. Also, Professors S. Pacala and Robert H. Socolow have developed a series of "stabilization wedges" that can allow us to maintain our quality of life while avoiding catastrophic climate change, and "renewable energy sources," in aggregate, constitute the largest number of their "wedges." [131]

Mark Z. Jacobson says producing all new energy with wind power, solar power, and hydropower by 2030 is feasible and existing energy supply arrangements could be replaced by 2050. Barriers to implementing the renewable energy plan are seen to be "primarily social and political, not technological or economic". Jacobson says that energy costs with a wind, solar, water system should be similar to today's energy costs.[132]

Similarly, in the United States, the independent National Research Council has noted that "sufficient domestic renewable resources exist to allow renewable electricity to play a significant role in future electricity generation and thus help confront issues related to climate change, energy security, and the escalation of energy costs … Renewable energy is an attractive option because renewable resources available in the United States, taken collectively, can supply significantly greater amounts of electricity than the total current or projected domestic demand." .[133]

Critics of the "100% renewable energy" approach include Vaclav Smil and James E. Hansen. Smil and Hansen are concerned about the variable output of solar and wind power, but Amory Lovins argues that the electricity grid can cope, just as it routinely backs up nonworking coal-fired and nuclear plants with working ones.[134]

Google spent $30 million on their RE<C project to develop renewable energy and stave off catastrophic climate change. The project was cancelled after concluding that a best-case scenario for rapid advances in renewable energy could only result in emissions 55 percent below the fossil fuel projections for 2050.[135]

Increased energy efficiency

A spiral-type integrated compact fluorescent lamp, which has been popular among North American consumers since its introduction in the mid-1990s[136]
Main article: Efficient energy use

Although increasing the efficiency of energy use is not energy development per se, it may be considered under the topic of energy development since it makes existing energy sources available to do work.[137]:22

Efficient energy use, simply called energy efficiency, is the goal of efforts to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. For example, insulating a home allows a building to use less heating and cooling energy to achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature. Installing fluorescent lamps or natural skylights reduces the amount of energy required to attain the same level of illumination compared to using traditional incandescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights use two-thirds less energy and may last 6 to 10 times longer than incandescent lights. Improvements in energy efficiency are most often achieved by adopting an efficient technology or production process.[138]

There are various motivations to improve energy efficiency. Reducing energy use reduces energy costs and may result in a financial cost saving to consumers if the energy savings offset any additional costs of implementing an energy efficient technology. Reducing energy use is also seen as a key solution to the problem of reducing emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world's energy needs in 2050 by one third, and help control global emissions of greenhouse gases.[139]

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are said to be the twin pillars of sustainable energy policy.[140] In many countries energy efficiency is also seen to have a national security benefit because it can be used to reduce the level of energy imports from foreign countries and may slow down the rate at which domestic energy resources are depleted.


An elevated section of the Alaska Pipeline

While new sources of energy are only rarely discovered or made possible by new technology, distribution technology continually evolves.[141] The use of fuel cells in cars, for example, is an anticipated delivery technology.[142] This section presents the various delivery technologies that have been important to historic energy development. They all rely in way on the energy sources listed in the previous section.

Shipping and pipelines

Shipping is a flexible delivery technology that is used in the whole range of energy development regimes from primitive to highly advanced. Currently, coal, petroleum and their derivatives are delivered by shipping via boat, rail, or road. Petroleum and natural gas may also be delivered via pipeline and coal via a Slurry pipeline. Refined hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline and LPG may also be delivered via aircraft. Natural gas pipelines must maintain a certain minimum pressure to function correctly. Ethanol's corrosive properties make it harder to build ethanol pipelines. The higher costs of ethanol transportation and storage are often prohibitive.[143] Geomagnetically induced currents, seen as interfering with the normal operation of long buried pipeline systems, are a manifestation[144][145] at ground level of space weather that occur due to time-varying ionospheric source fields and the conductivity of the Earth.

Wired energy transfer

Electrical grid – pylons and cables distribute power
Main article: Electrical grid

Electricity grids are the networks used to transmit and distribute power from production source to end user, when the two may be hundreds of kilometres away. Sources include electrical generation plants such as a nuclear reactor, coal burning power plant, etc. A combination of sub-stations, transformers, towers, cables, and piping are used to maintain a constant flow of electricity. Grids may suffer from transient blackouts and brownouts, often due to weather damage. During certain extreme space weather events solar wind can interfere with transmissions. Grids also have a predefined carrying capacity or load that cannot safely be exceeded. When power requirements exceed what's available, failures are inevitable. To prevent problems, power is then rationed.

Industrialised countries such as Canada, the US, and Australia are among the highest per capita consumers of electricity in the world, which is possible thanks to a widespread electrical distribution network. The US grid is one of the most advanced, although infrastructure maintenance is becoming a problem. CurrentEnergy provides a realtime overview of the electricity supply and demand for California, Texas, and the Northeast of the US. African countries with small scale electrical grids have a correspondingly low annual per capita usage of electricity. One of the most powerful power grids in the world supplies power to the state of Queensland, Australia.

Wireless energy transfer

Wireless energy transfer is a process whereby electrical energy is transmitted from a power source to an electrical load that does not have a built-in power source, without the use of interconnecting wires.


Energy storage is accomplished by devices or physical media that store energy to perform useful operation at a later time. A device that stores energy is sometimes called an accumulator.

All forms of energy are either potential energy (e.g. Chemical, gravitational, electrical energy, temperature differential, latent heat, etc.) or kinetic energy (e.g. momentum). Some technologies provide only short-term energy storage, and others can be very long-term such as power to gas using hydrogen or methane and the storage of heat or cold between opposing seasons in deep aquifers or bedrock. A wind-up clock stores potential energy (in this case mechanical, in the spring tension), a battery stores readily convertible chemical energy to operate a mobile phone, and a hydroelectric dam stores energy in a reservoir as gravitational potential energy. Ice storage tanks store ice (thermal energy in the form of latent heat) at night to meet peak demand for cooling. Fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline store ancient energy derived from sunlight by organisms that later died, became buried and over time were then converted into these fuels. Even food (which is made by the same process as fossil fuels) is a form of energy stored in chemical form.

History of energy development

Energy generators past and present at Doel, Belgium: 17th-century windmill Scheldemolen and 20th-century Doel Nuclear Power Station

Since prehistory, when humanity discovered fire to warm up and roast food, through the Middle Ages in which populations built windmills to grind the wheat, until the modern era in which nations can get electricity splitting the atom. Man has sought endlessly for energy sources[note 21] from which to draw profit, which have been the fossil fuels, on one hand the coal to fuel the steam engines run industrial rails as well as maintain households, and secondly, the oil and its derivatives in the industry and transportation (primarily automotive), although have lived with smaller-scale exploitation of wind power, hydro and biomass. This model of development, however, is based on the depletion of fossil resources from periods of millions years without possibility for replacement as would be required to maintain. The search for energy sources that are inexhaustible and utilization by industrialized countries to strengthen their national economies by reducing its dependence on fossil fuels,[note 22] has led to the adoption of nuclear energy and those with sufficient water resources, the intensive hydraulic use of their waterways.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the question of the future of energy supplies has been of interest. In 1865, William Stanley Jevons published The Coal Question in which he saw that the reserves of coal were being depleted and that oil was an ineffective replacement. In 1914, U.S. Bureau of Mines stated that the total production was 5.7 billion barrels (910,000,000 m3). In 1956, Geophysicist M. King Hubbert deduces that U.S. oil production will peak between 1965 and 1970 (peaked in 1971) and that oil production will peak "within half a century" on the basis of 1956 data.[note 23] In 1989, predicted peak by Colin Campbell[146] In 2004, OPEC estimated, with substantial investments, it would nearly double oil output by 2025[147]


Energy consumption from 1989 to 1999

The environmental movement has emphasized sustainability of energy use and development.[148] Renewable energy is sustainable in its production; the available supply will not be diminished for the foreseeable future - millions or billions of years. "Sustainability" also refers to the ability of the environment to cope with waste products, especially air pollution. Sources which have no direct waste products (such as wind, solar, and hydropower) are brought up on this point. With global demand for energy growing, the need to adopt various energy sources is growing. Energy conservation is an alternative or complementary process to energy development. It reduces the demand for energy by using it efficiently.


Energy consumption per capita (2001). Red hues indicate increase, green hues decrease of consumption during the 1990s.

Some observers contend that idea of "energy independence" is an unrealistic[note 24] and opaque concept.[149] The alternative offer of "energy resilience" is a goal aligned with economic, security, and energy realities. The notion of resilience in energy was detailed in the 1982 book Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security.[150] The authors argued that simply switching to domestic energy would not be secure inherently because the true weakness is the interdependent and vulnerable energy infrastructure of the United States. Key aspects such as gas lines and the electrical power grid are centralized and easily susceptible to disruption. They conclude that a "resilient energy supply" is necessary for both national security and the environment. They recommend a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy that is decentralized.[151]

In 2008, former Intel Corporation Chairman and CEO Andrew Grove looked to energy resilience, arguing that complete independence is unfeasible given the global market for energy.[152] He describes energy resilience as the ability to adjust to interruptions in the supply of energy. To that end, he suggests the U.S. make greater use of electricity.[153] Electricity can be produced from a variety of sources. A diverse energy supply will be less affected by the disruption in supply of any one source. He reasons that another feature of electrification is that electricity is "sticky" – meaning the electricity produced in the U.S. is to stay there because it cannot be transported overseas. According to Grove, a key aspect of advancing electrification and energy resilience will be converting the U.S. automotive fleet from gasoline-powered to electric-powered. This, in turn, will require the modernization and expansion of the electrical power grid. As organizations such as The Reform Institute have pointed out, advancements associated with the developing smart grid would facilitate the ability of the grid to absorb vehicles en masse connecting to it to charge their batteries.[154]

Present and future

Outlook—World Energy Consumption by Fuel (as of 2011)[155]
  Liquid fuels incl. Biofuels   Coal   Natural Gas
  Renewable fuels   Nuclear fuels
Increasing share of energy consumption by developing nations[156]
  Industrialized nations
  Developing nations
  EE/Former Soviet Union

Extrapolations from current knowledge to the future offer a choice of energy futures.[157] Predictions parallel the Malthusian catastrophe hypothesis. Numerous are complex models based scenarios as pioneered by Limits to Growth. Modeling approaches offer ways to analyze diverse strategies, and hopefully find a road to rapid and sustainable development of humanity. Short term energy crises are also a concern of energy development. Extrapolations lack plausibility, particularly when they predict a continual increase in oil consumption.

Energy production usually requires an energy investment. Drilling for oil or building a wind power plant requires energy. The fossil fuel resources (see above) that are left are often increasingly difficult to extract and convert. They may thus require increasingly higher energy investments. If investment is greater than the energy produced by the resource, it is no longer an effective energy source.[158][note 25] This means that resources, the wasteful ones, are not used effectively for energy production.[note 26] Such resources can be exploited economically in order to produce raw materials;[note 27] They then become ordinary mining reserves, economically recoverable are not a positive energy sources. New technology may ameliorate this problem if it can lower the energy investment required to extract and convert the resources, although ultimately basic physics sets limits that cannot be exceeded.

Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation.[159] The peaking of world hydrocarbon production (peak oil) may lead to significant changes, and require sustainable methods of production.[160] One vision of a sustainable energy future involves all human structures on the earth's surface (i.e., buildings, vehicles and roads) doing artificial photosynthesis (using sunlight to split water as a source of hydrogen and absorbing carbon dioxide to make fertilizer) efficiently than plants.[161]

With contemporary space industry's economic activity[162][163] and the related private spaceflight, with the manufacturing industries, that go into Earth's orbit or beyond, delivering them to those regions will require further energy development.[164][165][166][167] Commercialization of space includes satellite navigation systems, satellite television and satellite radio; investments estimated to be $50.8 billion.[168] Researchers have contemplated space-based solar power for collecting solar power in space for use on Earth.[note 28][note 29] Space-based solar power only differ from solar and other similar radiant energy collection methods in that the means used to collect energy would reside on an orbiting satellite instead of on Earth's surface. Some projected benefits of such a system are a higher collection rate and a longer collection period due to the lack of a diffusing and refracting atmosphere and nighttime in space.[note 30]

See also

Energy policy, Energy policy of the United States, Energy policy of China, Energy policy of India, Energy policy of the European Union, Energy policy of the United Kingdom, Energy policy of Russia, Energy policy of Brazil, Energy policy of Canada, Energy policy of the Soviet Union, Energy Industry Liberalization and Privatization (Thailand)
Seasonal thermal energy storage (Interseasonal thermal energy storage), Geomagnetically induced current, Energy harvesting
Raw material, Biomaterial, Commodity, Materials science, Recycling, Upcycling, Downcycling
Background radiation, Thorium-based nuclear power, List of oil pipelines, List of natural gas pipelines, Ocean thermal energy conversion, Growth of photovoltaics

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  1. Also known as heat loss inefficiency
  2. See also: Fuel efficiency and Energy efficiency in transportation
  3. See also: Energy conversion efficiency
  4. For small-scale generation, see: Microgeneration.
  5. Including oil companies, petroleum refiners, fuel transport and end-user sales at gas stations
  6. Including natural gas extraction, and coal gas manufacture, as well as distribution and sales
  7. Including electricity generation, electric power distribution and sales
  8. Such as the physical jargon of "power", can be seen in the following:
  9. See: thermodynamics open system
  10. Providing the day and the habitable zone the Earth is in.
  11. See also: Matter and Energy
  12. Or those pertaining to the cosmos.
  13. See also: velocity of wind
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  21. All terrestrial energy sources except nuclear, geothermal and tidal are from current solar isolation or from fossil remains of plant and animal life that relied directly and indirectly upon sunlight, respectively. Ultimately, solar energy itself is the result of the Sun's nuclear fusion. Geothermal power from hot, hardened rock above the magma of the Earth's core is the result of the decay of radioactive materials present beneath the Earth's crust, and nuclear fission relies on man-made fission of heavy radioactive elements in the Earth's crust; in both cases these elements were produced in supernova explosions before the formation of the solar system.
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