What strategies can be used to increase energy supply?
Energy is typically delivered as electricity. This can be generated by burning fossil fuels or mechanically, such as using wind and water to turn turbines. There are two main strategies available for increasing energy supply:
- Continue to use non-renewable fossil fuels and nuclear power. This could involve using technology to extract fossil fuels, such as fracking.
- Further develop alternative, renewable energy sources, which are sustainable and less damaging to the environment.
The graph below shows the fuels used to generate electricity around the world.
Non-renewables are the most commonly used energy source around the world. Historically, the most accessible fossil fuel resources have been removed from the ground as this makes most economic sense. However, mining is becoming increasingly complex as we increasingly exploit resources deep underground.
In the future, non-renewable energy resources will become too expensive, both economically and environmentally, to extract. However, despite their environmental impact, fossil fuels are and in the short term will continue to be important for some time.
Nuclear power is a non-renewable energy resource that uses the uranium as the raw material. Water is heated by nuclear fission to create steam to drive turbines.
Renewable energy resources are increasingly being used to generate electricity. As renewable energy becomes more efficient and better value its role in global energy production will become more important.
Below, are the advantages and disadvantages of a range of renewable energy resources.
- Vegetation grown in different environments can be used
- Low-tech organic matter, such as wood and manure can be used
- Land that could be used for agriculture is sometimes used to grow vegetation for biomass
- Burning biomass contributes to carbon emissions
- Deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests to make way for commercial biofuels
- There is considerable potential for wind energy in the UK. Wind already accounts for 10% of electric production
- Jobs are created in the local area in manufacturing and maintenance
- Turbines only generate electricity when there is wind
- It is expensive to construct and maintain wind turbines
- Some consider them unsightly and land-based wind farms often face strong objections
Hydro-electric power (HEP)
- HEP is very efficient
- Suited to remote, upland environments
- Isolated communities can be supplied with energy using micro-hydro schemes
- Reservoirs can be used to stock fish, improving the diet of local people
- Reservoirs can control flooding downstream
- Dams and reservoirs lead to the displacement of people, loss of farmland and natural environments
- Dams and reservoirs are very expensive to construct
- Effective in areas that experience a high tidal range
- Tidal barrages can protect coastal settlements from sea level rise and storm surges
- Tidal barrages are very expensive
- Tidal barrages can have a negative impact on marine ecosystems and fish migration
- Very effective in areas of volcanic activity
- Produces vast quantities of cheap energy
- How water can be used for heating homes, industrial processes and swimming pools
- Warm water released into rivers and the sea can have a negative impact on marine ecosystems
- Electric generation requires the construction of reservoirs
- Can provide isolated coastal settlements with energy
- Very expensive to construct
- Wave energy is inconsistent
- Very effective in areas with high sunshine totals
- Very effective in converting sunlight to electricity
- Energy generation depends on sunlight amount
- Can involve using fields that were previously used in food production