State of Electricity

Posted: February 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

Let’s explore the current standing of where our energy comes from. An energy mix is the mix of sources that make up a given energy supply. The goal with this post is to briefly provide an understanding of where we are currently, as well as where we appear to be headed. We know that oil drives transportation (no pun intended), but what about electricity generation? How advanced are our renewables and alternative forms of energy other than the traditional fossil fuels?

Coal is the dominant source of electricity generation not just in the U.S. but also in the world. It has been around for a long time and is abundant, as well as cheap. It makes up 40% of total electricity supply in the world, and is expected to continue to grow significantly, and according to the International Energy Administration, by 2040 coal will have increased by 73% compared to 2010.  Natural Gas is the second dominant source for electricity at roughly 22% of worldwide supply. It is also expected to rise over the coming years, up to 24% by 2010. With the continuing advancement of technologies, this may prove to be an increasingly attractive source of energy for many countries. What about the other fossil fuel, the king? Petroleum. Well it is certainly not king for electricity generation as it is hardly used at all for these purposes. Globally, the electricity generated from petroleum is less than 5% and expected to decrease down to 1% within the coming decades. Petroleum is used for many processes, but is not significant for electricity and oil is almost entirely used for transportation. Nuclear is an advanced source of electricity, with 30 countries operating facilities that make up 436 reactors. Worldwide, nuclear accounts for over 12% of electricity generation. Nuclear forecasts are interesting because while there are many plants under design and construction, there is also an attitude of shying away from nuclear, especially after the disaster in Japan. The U.S. is the world leader in nuclear generated electricity, followed by France. Perhaps no country is as dedicated to nuclear as France, and this short article by Reuters helps portray the French attitude on nuclear.

Renewable energy supply is a fast growing source of electricity generation, with projections of roughly 3% growth per year through 2030, which would increase total supply from 19% to 21%. Renewables have been increasing attention and investment and due to the rise in prices of fossil fuels as well as environmental concerns, they continue to garner attention. Within the renewable category are sources such as wind, solar, biomass, biogass, geothermal, hydro-power, and other types that are less common such as tidal energy. A great source for detailed information on the breakdown of renewable energy is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This is the current mix, and how can we impact the future of it? What do we need to do? What is likely to happen? I ask that you pick any one of the possible sources and propose an idea or ask a question about how to deal with the issue. Throughout our journey, we will analyze many of the possible issues and ideas.

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