|The goal for this entire sheet is to allow anyone to investigate various scenarios for how the supply and demand for energy resources in the United States, and to some degree the world, might change over the next 30 years. These will also be predictors of the changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, and thus some climate change scenarios. For many, if not most, of those scenarios, it seems that the key factor will be getting much more bang for each energy buck (based on full life cycle analysis). But such reductions could also facilitate a more rapid transition, from fossil fuel based energy supplies to various renewable ones, than would otherwise be possible. We outline some potential scenarios and provide tools to allow users to easily select from those and parameterize them.|
However, the nature of those supplies, that is unrelated to the demand characteristics, will require a major enhancement in our energy storage technology, in conjuction with increases in those source and improvements in the efficiency/cost characteristics in the solar area. But we provide some references to work that indicates that such storage systems are close to commercial deployment.
Anyone may make a copy of this sheet, parameterize it according to their vision, and publish that to the web (e.g. in a web page or blog) for anyone else to view or compare to other such scenarios. To date, most large scale projections of energy supply and demand changes have been provided as a small number of variations produced by a few research labs, or as hand wavey philosophical things with notions like we should produce electric vehicles because we know how to build them and they use less energy and green house gases during operation. A parameterization of this sheet would allow anyone to explore a wide range of such possiblities, and to compare this to what others model.
|Data sources and references||Our main source of data is from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) historic breakdowns of the US pattern of supply, demand, and electricity generation and consumption patterns from 1949 to 2014 (the April 2015 version). We use the US patterns because they are the largest single energy consumer country in the world, but also because other potentially large consumers, such as China and India, appear to be following trajectories that would to some degree approach the US patterns as they develop further. However, even though the emphasis is on analyzing US data, we provide a summary of data from other large countries for 2004 that is also provided in a large report by the US EIA. The US Department of Energy (DoE) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have also provided provided visual represents of the energy flows going back decades.|
The models are broken down into various forms of "primary" energy supply (fossil: coal, oil, natural gas; renewables: hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass; nuclear: fission), a course categorization of the demand areas (residential, commercial/institutional, industrial, and transportation), with an intermediate step via electricity (that may be produced by all of the supply sources and feed various aspects of each demand category). There are also potential supply sources that are too insignificant to include today, but which may start to have some significance over the time frame of this model. Much of the energy supply for each demand area, and electricity generation, is wasted. The flows identify the magnitude of wasted energy and the amount consumed to perform a desired function. However, convincing arguments have been published that as much as half of the amount not could consider to be waste, could also be characterized as inefficient application of the energy consumed.
These organizations have also produced various projections into the future (to 2040) for vaious scenarios. We include these to allow see what others think might happen, and to compare to the models they create to some that others who work in the field have produced.
|US EIA Total Energy Summary|
|US DoE LLNL Energy Flow Diagram Archive|
|World Bank GDP per unit of energy use (by country)|
|BP energy charting tool|
|Primary supply element models||Overview||Primary energy supplies are those that are used directly in the form in which they are initially extracted or produced. Any significant transformation to an intermediate supply form (e.g. coal into electricity) is treated as the introduction of a secondary supply. There are usually losses (and usually significant) in the the conversion of energy in a primary form into energy in a secondary form. One of the biggest advantages of renewables such as wind and solar is that their primary energy is essentially that of the point of use requirement.|
|Fossi fuels||Coal||We do not directly model any growth in coal usage, although a user of the sheet can do so if they wish. The basis for that decision is our belief that increased efficiencies in the use of energy for most applications; along with an increase in renewable output from solar, wind and other options; will allow coal consumption to decrease sharply over the next decades. Therefore, on these sheets, coal is modeled to supply whatever energy demand is not satisfied from other sources.|
|Oil||In most places oil is used primarily as a source for various forms of transportation fuels, with most of the rest serving as chemical industry feedstocks. The dominance in transportation fuels derives from the fairly high energy density of such fuels (allowing for less mass and volume to be needed for vehicles that carry their energy supply) relative to the current state of alternatives such as batteries and super-capacitors for electric vehicles, and hydrogen for fuel cell powered ones.|
Our base models assume that various kinds of hybrids will fairly rapidly replace pure IC/deisel engines. Increases in renewable energy source use will be directed primarily at eliminating coal fired generating stations, expanding the application of electricity to other stationary applications (e.g. air and ground source heat pumps), and applications that do not require intermediaries like passive heating and lighting and solar water heating. Our perception is that personal vehicles using only electric or hydrogen supplies will be the last mechanism for replacing oil consumption.
Our sustainable transportation system (specified at basisforchange.com), has the potential based on how rapidly it would be deployed, to eliminate the need for much of the migration path noted in the last paragraph, with complete elimination of the electric personal vehicle stage.
|Natural gas||Natural gas has become an alternative for the other fossil fuels in many non-transportation applications. It has many properties that make it preferable to coal or oil based fuels, but for a long time it was often just thrown away, and assumed to be have relatively limited reserves. The former has changed with the construction of extensive pipeline networks, while the latter has been addressed by the use of new hydaulic fracturing technologies that provide access to previously inaccessible reserves. Our natural gas sheet allows the user to model various scenarios with respect to the interaction of natural gas usage with other changes.|
|Renewables||Wind||Wind power can operate at many scales. However, the most efficient are large windmills grouped together into large "farms". These can be either on land, or at sea (typically close to land on continental shelves). Wind farms have the potential to produce a large amount of electricity, although in doing so they would occupy large swaths of land (for the on-shore variety). The big advantages of such farms are that they consume no fuel and produce no related pollution, during operation, and can be deployed much more incrementally than typical thermo-electric (fossil fuel or nuclear) generating stations. However, they produce their power intermittently (so some over-capacity and energy storage is required to match their production to demand), they do still require significant resources to build and deploy, have a significant NIMBY factor, and most of the best on-shore wind resource areas are not close to major population centers so long distance transmission lines would be needed.|
|Solar||When most people think of solar energy they think of photo-voltaic cell arrays deployed on roofs. However, the exploitation of solar energy can take many forms, some of which would not even typically register as energy production. Passive heating and lighting benefit from the sun's energy. The sun's energy can also be used for water heating which, after space heating in many areas, is the largest consumer of energy. In addition to photo-voltaics solar energy can also be exploited for what is referred to as concentrating solar power, which focuses the sun's rays from a large area, into a smaller area, where the heat from such a concentration can be exploited by many standard thermo-electric mechanisms. Even the photo-voltaic technologies have a wide range of costs and efficiencies that can be applied to applications where different characteristics on that spectrum are important.|
|Geothermal||When most people think of geothermal they think of ground source heat pumps used for heating individual homes. In the EIA data most of the geothermal is actually large scale electricity generation plants above hot spots in the earths crust. These exploit heat rising from lower levels in the earth, and can be very efficient in those hot spot areas (such as Iceland), but are generally unavailable in most places. The actual energy flux reaching the earths surface from the lower levels is less than 1% of what arrives from the sun. Ground source heat pumps are not so much geothermal as exploitations of historical (over many millenia) energy accumulations and surface heating from the sun. These can still be significant sources for heating/cooling purposes for buildings, but should not be confused with expoiting ongoing heat arriving from the earth's interior.|
|Hydro||Hydro-electric power could also be called gravitational power. It essentially turns the gravitational potential energy available from water, that has fallen from the sky as precipitation, that is making its way to sea-level, into the kinetic energy of rotating turbines, that in turn produce electricity. Gravity has already focused this return into watersheds, and corresponding streams, rivers, and intermediate lakes. By building dams we create larger reservoirs for this potential, that we can then exploit, on demand, to produce electricity.|
|Biomass||Wood, manure and non-food portions of food plants, form a significant part of the energy supply in much of the developing world. But very little in the developed world including the US. Biomass in the US was dominated by wood (or wood by-products) in various industrial applications, with a small (and decreasing) amount for space heating or other needs for residential or commecial environments. But over the past one to two decades cultivated plant products have been used more and more to produce biofuels, primarily for adding to petroleum products for transportation applications.|
|Wave/Tidal||There is significant harvestable power in the movement of water in the world oceans (and even large lakes). However, to date there has been little, to no, deployments to capture this resource. Essentially wave power would be a water based analog of wind (capturing the energy in moving air) power.|
We believe that over time this can become a significant resource (in the form of large floating "anchored" platforms combining solar, wind and biomass collection to produce hydrogen) it is insignificant historically. A big advantage of such systems would be that the collection would be optimized to where the resource is best, and not consume any land area where people would live. We do provide a sheet which briefly describes such systems and calculates their potential production.
Tidal power may be significant in a few places around the world, but the effect is not widespread enough to be significant overall. It is included here for completeness.
|Nuclear||Fission||Fission involves splitting large atoms into smaller ones. During the split some matter is converted into energy according to Einstein's famous E=mc^2 equation. While the m (mass) is very small here, c^2 is very large. So even a little converted mass will produce a lot of energy.|
In fission power plants this energy is used to heat water to steam, that is then used to drive turbine generators, that convert the kinetic energy in the steam into electrical energy. This is the same process as used in fossil fuel electricity generation, but the nuclear reaction produces far more heat, for a given amount of fuel, than the corresponding chemical reaction.
Fission power plants are the only nuclear ones that exist today, and in the US produce about 7% of the total electrical output, although in some countries (France, Japan) the fraction is much higher.
|Fusion||Fusion involves the merging of small atoms into larger ones. As with fusion typically a small amount of the matter in the inputs is converted into energy based on Einstein's equation. Fusion is the process that produces energy in suns.|
The use of fusion reactions to produce power has notoriously been 40 years away for the last 50 years. While research advances have been made, it is still unclear when practical fusion power generation might arrive.
|Secondary suppy element models||Overview||Secondary energy supplies are those that use some primary source as input, and transform that into a form that can be consumed more "easily" by applications. Today this is basically grid level elecricity generation. In the US today, almost 40% of primary supplies are used to produce electricity, but almost 2/3 of that is categorized as "rejected" (i.e. not used) at the gneration or distribution stages. However, in the future, a significant portion of the secondary supply could be hydrogen that is piped to the usage point, and used in some manner there. It appears that in the EIA data local solar PV is considered a primary supply.|
|Electricity||Virtually any primary energy supply source can be converted into a supply of electrical energy. Electrical energy provides the most flexibility for application of any energy form as we have developed machines that can use electricity for almost any function.|
For some primary sources (like nuclear and grid level hydro) electricity is the only reasonable option. But all thermo-electric generation (e.g. all foosil fuels and nuclear) are constrained by thermodynamic laws to about 35% efficiency in that conversion.
|Hydrogen||Hydrogen could be employed, at the point of use, to produce electricity via fuel cells or combustion. There were significant efforts in the late 90s and early 00s to have a "hydrogen based economy" in which hydrogen would supply much of our energy needs, including transportation. The EIA even produced projections for energy supply and demand to 2040 based on various penetrations of hydrogen as a vehicle energy source.|
This has not come to pass because the characteristics of the processes required to produce hydrogen and to convert it to electricity, at point of use, in fuel cells, have had poor overall cost/benefit performance relative to electricity generation options. Significant advances in this area, away from catalysts based on rare elements such as platinum, are being developed in research labs, but these are likely at least 5-10 years away.
Uses for transportation applications have further suffered from the inability to produce high enough energy density stores, with low enough volume and mass, to be a viable option to chemical, or even battery, on vehicle stores.
|Demand element models||Overview||We believe that demand should be the prime driver for supply volume and characteristics. We doubt that anyone who has looked at energy flows, for even a brief time, would think that most of today's supply is used efficiently to satisfy demands. The EIA reports that more than 60% of all primary energy supplies are wasted (in there terms "rejected"). Other people have noted that even out of the remainder, a significant amount is wasted due to systematic characteristics. In our basisforchange.com website we specifiy an alternative transportation system that would be both more effective and efficient at that task, as well as taking major steps towards reducing the rejected energy the EIA identifies, and the waste in the rest of our systems.|
In the four sheets related to demand we provide the data that the EIA has collected for the US for the period from 1949 to 2014. We provide a number of mechanisms for users to model how changes in those areas may evolve up to 2040. Some of these could be simple change estimates based on historical rates. Others can include more significant changes like the introduction of electric vehicles, or the transportation system revolution we specify.
|Residential||The application areas for energy use in residential operations are similar to those for commercial applications: space heating and cooling (HVAC), water heating, lighting, and specialized appliances (including various electronics). Where the two differ is mainly in the fraction of energy consumption each application consumes. Industrial and transportation energy demand characteristics are very different from either of these. On our residential sheet we provide data on how the consumption for these applications has changed over time, and allow user to project changes into the future.|
Our belief, based on detailed analysis provided on our basisforchange.com website, is that the nature and volume of residential energy consumption could become the most significant energy driver within the next couple of decades, or even sooner if desired. Our residential demand sheet allow one to model any changes in this area.
|Commercial||Commerical applications are basically those that do not fall into the other areas of transportation, industrial and residential. The Canadian Natural Resource Council (NRC) refers to this category as commerical/institutional to capture that non-commercial facilities such as schools, government buildings and churches fall into this category, and are significant consumers of the energy used outside of those three major areas.|
We provide arguments, on our basisforchange.com website, that most energy consumption in this area could be eliminated while producing greater benefits to the populous, than occurs today. We provide some scenarios for such an evolution in these sheets, although users can play with many other options.
|Industrial||The industrial uses of energy have a much wider range in terms of what their inputs can be (primary and secondary), and how those inputs are used. Residential and commercial (outside of the data/compute server applications that have become significant in recent years) are dominated by space heating and cooling, water heating, and large appliances for applications such as food refrigeration and clothes or dish washing and drying.|
Industrial energy use is dominated by primary resource collection (e.g. mining. forestry, fossil fuel extraction) and the conversion of those resources into end products for other applications (including other industrial ones and transformations such as oil refining).
|Transportation||Closely behind industry, the EIA data indicates that transportation is the second largest consumer of energy in the US. But our interpretation of the data would indicate that transportation is by far the largest demand area. The difference is that the transportation category is mostly about energy consumption during operation. The collection and refinement of that fuel, the elements involved in building the vehicle fleet, and other factors are parts of the industrial and commercial categories. Also, in terms of US energy consumption some of those factors are spent overseas.|
|Economic relationships||Although total energy supply has historically increased, fairly slowly, and there has been a positive correlation between GDP (since the 1920s, often considered the major measure of a nation's wealth or well-being), considerations like those indicated above indicate that there is a significant potential to require much less primary energy overall using efficiencies on the demand side and the expansion of more efficient supply mechanisms than today's thermoelectric generation.|