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Energy

  • Global Energy Supply and Demand
  • Impacts of Energy Insecurity
  • Factors affecting Energy Supply
  • Strategies to increase Energy Supply
  • Energy and Conflict
  • Renewable and Non-renewable Sources of Energy
  • Pros and Cons of Extracting Gas in Peru
  • Sustainable Energy Use
  • The Chambamontera Micro-Hydro Scheme in Peru

What is the global distribution of energy consumption and supply?

 

Energy security means having a reliable, uninterrupted, and affordable supply of energy. A country’s energy security depends on the supplies available (from domestic supplies or imports), the population size, and the amount of energy that the average person consumes. When an area or region produces more energy than it consumes it is said to have an energy surplus – extra energy can be exported. An energy surplus gives a country energy security. When an area or region produces less energy than it consumes it is said to have an energy deficit meaning it does not have enough energy - this can cause energy insecurity.

 

The UK has a medium risk of energy security because:

  • The coal that is left in the UK would be unsafe and expensive to mine so the UK now imports around 3/4 of its coal, because it is cheaper. 
  • The gas under the southern part of the North Sea has been largely used up and gas supplies have been imported since 2004. 
  • More than half of the oil under the central and northern parts of the North Sea has been used up.
  • EU regulations with regards to carbon dioxide emissions called for the closure of coal mines and coal-fired power stations.
  • Fracking for shale gas in the UK was halted in November 2019 because of an increase in minor earthquakes and pressure from activists. 

As development, improving the quality of life and standard of living of a place increases, more energy is consumed through construction of infrastructure, food production, industrial output, transport, and domestic use. The larger the population, the more energy we will need. Having energy security is therefore important for a country’s economic growth. Industry alone accounts for around 51% of global energy consumption. Nearly 90% of the world’s energy supply comes from non-renewable sources. But energy supply around the world is uneven. This means that there are regions with an energy deficit (insecurity) and countries with a surplus (energy security).

 

Some countries produce lots of energy because they have large energy reserves and the money and technology to exploit them. For example: Iran and Saudi Arabia have a plentiful supply of oil; China and Australia have lots of coal; and UK and Russia have gas and oil reserves. The US and Canada produce large quantities of oil and successfully exploit their shale gas reserves. It is obvious that the biggest producers of energy are also the largest consumers of energy and mostly HIC and NEE countries. Some countries produce less energy because they have few resources such as Ireland, or they might have high levels of poverty and political instability like Sudan. LICs consume less energy because their lifestyle is less dependent on it, they may not own cars or household appliances.

What causes energy security and energy insecurity?

 

The balance between energy supply (production) and demand (consumption) determines the level of energy security. Countries which consume the most energy are also often producers of the most energy. They are mainly HICs and energy in those countries is available for their population at a price which is affordable. In LICs energy production is often low and as a result so is demand. They often have energy insecurity. The choropleth map below shows the global risk of energy insecurity by country.

 

The countries with the lowest risk of energy insecurity include Canada, Russia, several in the Middle East, Indonesia, and Australia. Whilst countries such as the USA produce a lot of energy, they are also the largest consumer in the world therefore giving them a medium risk of energy insecurity.

 

An increasing number of countries face an energy gap. The energy gap is the difference between a country’s rising demand for energy and its ability to produce that energy from its own resources. In countries such as the UK the energy gap is widening as fossil fuels such as coal are phased out of use. The loss of energy produced from coal is greater than the amount being produced from renewable sources such as wind or solar power.

 

Globally, energy insecurity is increasing particularly in areas where there is greater demand for imported energy. Areas of deficit will rely more on imported energy.

Some regions such as Sub Saharan Africa have good reserves of oil but rely on TNCs such as Shell to exploit them so do not get the full benefit of their resources.

Global energy consumption has increased by nearly three-times over the last 50 years. This is due to three main factors:

  • Population growth

    As global population increases, there are more people to consume energy. By 2050 the world's population is predicted to pass 9 billion and by 2100 the population is expected to be around 10.1 billion. As people become wealthier and their disposable income increases they can buy more goods and afford to use electricity and transport. They also buy more food and consumer products, like clothes, which means more agricultural and industrial activity takes place. Industry alone accounts for 51% of global energy consumption.

  • Economic development

    As living standards increase, so does energy consumption because there is a lot more agricultural output, industry and transport. Rapid development in NEEs such as China, India and Brazil have increased energy consumption. It is thought that NEEs will account for 90% of the growth in energy demand by 2035.

  • Technology

    The availability and range of technology in people’s homes and within countries has greatly increased since 1965. Modern technology often uses electricity and fuels for power stations. Car ownership has also rapidly increased. Technology can also help to lower energy costs, but this in turn increases consumption as people buy more

What factors affect energy supply around the world?

 

Energy consumption has increased with development, population growth and improvements in technology. This means the demand has increased and therefore the supply must increase to meet this demand. There are multiple factors that affect energy supply, including geology, climate and environment/location.

 

Physical Factors

  • Geology

Fossil fuels and uranium were formed by geological processes and are only found in certain places, such as the large oil reserves in the Middle East and uranium deposits in Jordan and Russia. Fossil fuels form when decaying plant and animals are converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust other hundreds of years. Natural gas and oil is trapped in folded layers of rock. Additionally, geothermal energy can be produced in areas of tectonic activity like Iceland and around the Pacific Rim. Geology determines whether or not a country has fossil fuels or uranium to exploit and how easy they are to exploit. Some resources are harder to access than others such as the oil in Antarctica.

  • Climate

Some renewables depend of weather and climate, such as enough wind for wind farms and enough sunlight for solar panels. Countries with a coastline with land-shore breezes, exposed mountains or in the mid-latitudes where there are low air pressure systems have wind energy potential. HEP is reliant on high rainfall.

  • Environment

Harsh climates may make it more difficult to access resources, for example extracting oil from under the Arctic Ocean or in Siberia and Alaska. The more difficult the environment, the greater the cost of exploitation. Tidal power needs a large tidal range in order to be effective and HEP needs a suitable dam site, often in sparsely populated mountainous areas with high rainfall. Geothermal energy is reliant on location near plate boundaries.

 

Human Factors

  • Economic

Some energy sources are expensive to exploit. Oil rigs and pipelines require huge investments. Nuclear power stations converting uranium into energy are costly to build and maintain. The value of energy sources is linked to the demand and the amount of it; if it is in demand or is running out, the value goes up and then it is worth companies looking for more of that resource. This happened with oil in the 1970s. The more that consumers pay for energy, the larger the profits may be raised by the energy companies; allowing them to exploit more difficult to access resources. Some LICs have potential energy sources but cannot afford to exploit them. On the other hand, low production costs leads to a cheaper energy supply which in turn leads to greater consumption. Cheaper energy sources are likely to be the most exploited.

  • Technology

Changes in technology change the type of resource required. For example, steam engines needed coal, while motor vehicles need oil. There are many electrical appliances today that require more electricity. Extraction technologies have also changed, with an ability to drill for oil and natural gas in deeper oceans or to carry out fracking. This has been hugely successful in the US, but the UK government revoked their support of fracking in November 2019 due to environmental concerns. Technology also creates new ways of generating energy, for example making solar and wind power generation more efficient. Some countries are not able to exploit their energy resources as the technology is unavailable or too expensive. For example. Niger has large deposits of Uranium but does not have the technology to develop nuclear power plants. Some oil reserves in the USA are trapped in rocks and do not flow freely.

  • Political

Countries may depend on being friendly with other countries, so that they can trade for their energy resource and use political alliances to secure them. Wars and political instability in countries with large energy reserves can affect their ability to export their resources. During the Gulf War between 1990 and 1991, exports from the Middle East decreased. Countries that are reliant on imports from these places have to look elsewhere for alternative energy sources.  Western countries have tried to restrict the use of nuclear power in Iran as they fear they could use nuclear technology in weaponry. Countries also make political decisions to use less environmentally damaging energy resources. Some laws and agreements are set internationally, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. This means in some countries, they can’t burn fossil fuels as much as they used to. Environmental concerns with the disposal of nuclear waste have resulted in some countries weaning themselves of it. Germany plan to stop using nuclear power in 2020 and Japan aim to reduce their reliance on nuclear power by 2030.

What are the impacts of energy insecurity?

 

We know that many countries experience a shortfall in energy supply leading to energy insecurity. Energy insecurity means a country does not have enough of its own energy and relies on imports from other countries. It makes a country politically vulnerable as the exporting country can increase prices. There are several environmental and economic impacts of this. As a country tries to secure their energy needs they need to find ways to increase their energy supply. This can lead to the country trying to further exploit their own resources, like when the UK started fracking for shale gas. A country might secure its energy supply by making agreements with other countries for imports or attempt to reduce their own energy consumption through new technologies or more efficient ways of using energy.

 

Countries with energy insecurity could be persuaded to exploit environmentally sensitive areas and attempt the following to improve their energy supply, each having a risk to the environment.

  • Clear forests and use the land to grow biofuels. Biofuels such as corn and sugarcane contain ethanol, which is used to produce biofuel. An example of this is clearing rainforests in Brazil. Brazil produced about 84% of the world’s ethanol in 2018. 
  • Drilling for oil and gas in environmentally sensitive areas. For example in Alaska’s tundra. Alaska’s north slope has produced 18 billion barrels of oil since its discovery.
  • Flooding valleys through damming projects to produce more HEP. An example of this is the Three Gorges Dam in China. This cost $22.5 billion. After it was constructed, the population of Chinese Pink River Dolphin decreased, the species is now believed to be extinct. 
  • Building wind or solar power farms in previously unspoilt areas, for example the Scottish Highlands.

Countries suffering from energy insecurity can see the cost of energy production increase and this in turn increases the cost to consumers.

  • Modern large-scale intensive agribusiness uses large amounts of energy. It accounts for 30% of global energy consumption. This energy is used to power farm machinery (such as combine harvesters, milking machines and irrigation rigs) and also through the manufacture of chemicals and fertilizers. Rising energy prices means food production costs can increase so that agribusinesses can continue to make a profit whilst paying more for their energy consumption.
  • Industrial output can reduce if energy is more expensive. This in turn leads to more risk of losing out to foreign competitors. This can lead to reduced output and labour redundancies. 
  • An unreliable supply of energy can have economic impacts if there are frequent power cuts or if energy needs to be rationed. In Pakistan, power cuts often occur up to 6-8 hours in the cities and 20 hours in rural areas. This costs up to 4% of their GDP and has led to more than 500 factories being forced to close.
  • Increased cost of energy increases the cost of living for people living in areas of energy insecurity. Costs of running homes, food, manufacturing and travel increases. This could affect the most vulnerable, especially the elderly during the winter months. 

Competition for whatever energy is available can cause competition between consumers; people, agriculture, industry and transport. In the UK, households and agriculture are likely to be the losers. A recent surge in the global demand for energy is increasing conflict between countries. Several European countries, Germany among them, are reliant on Russian energy to heat their homes in winter. Energy as political power will be deployed time and again in the coming years. Russia also controls the central heating in the homes of the Baltic people (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) . It can set the price people pay for their heating bills each month, and, if it chooses, simply turn the heating off. Russia’s most powerful weapon now, leaving to one side nuclear missiles, are not the Russian army and air force, but gas and oil. Russia is second only to the USA as the world’s biggest supplier of natural gas, and of course it uses this power to its advantage. The better your relations with Russia, the less you pay for energy; for example, Finland gets a better deal than the Baltic States. On average, more than 25 per cent of Europe’s gas and oil comes from Russia. Gas pipelines run through the Ukraine from Russia to Europe. In 2015, Russia’s conflict with the Ukraine threatened gas supplies to Europe.

 

In 2015, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia held talks about a dam that Ethiopia wants to construct on the River Nile. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam would cost £3 billion and generate hydroelectric power for Ethiopia’s manufacturing and industrial dreams, but it will reduce the water reaching Sudan and Egypt. Ethiopia has a shortage of electricity and about 65% of its population do not have access to it. However, Egypt relies on the Nile for 90% of its water supply and is worried that the dam will limit the water that reaches downstream. Ethiopia began building the dam in 2011 on the Blue Nile tributary in the Northern Ethiopia highland, from where 85% of the Nile’s water flows. The countries continue to dispute the plans to this day, the US has stepped in the help mediate.

What strategies can increase energy supply?

 

The challenge of increasing energy supply around the world requires us to consider how to do this in ways that:

  • Do less environmental damage
  • Are affordable
  • Suit the available technology
  • Do not increase energy insecurity

There are two main options for increasing energy supplies:

  • Develop and increase the use of renewable or sustainable sources of energy (for example wind, solar, HEP).
  • Continue to use and exploit further non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil and gas. Development of nuclear power is also an option.

Renewables

Concern about climate change has persuaded many governments to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels releases huge quantities of greenhouse gases. Whilst the UK is reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, globally they are still widely used especially in countries such as China. By 2035, coal will be the main source of energy, followed by natural gas and HEP.

 

Despite huge efforts less than 10% of world energy supply comes from renewable sources. The table below shows renewable energy sources and ways they could increase energy supplies.

Renewable energy source

How does it work?

Can it increase energy supplies?

Biomass

Energy produced from organic matter. For example burning animal dung or plant matter. Also, the production of biofuels such as sugar cane and other plants grown specifically for use as fuels.

Using land to grow biofuels rather than food crops is very controversial.

 

Burning organic matter can create smoky unhealthy conditions.

 

Fuelwood supplies are limited.

Wind

Turbines on land or at sea are turned by the wind to generate electricity.

In 2014, wind power met 10% of the UK’s electricity demand.

 

Unpopular, but considerable potential.

Hydro (HEP)

Large-scale dams and smaller microdams create enough water to turn turbines and generate electricity.

Large dams are expensive and controversial.

 

Micro-dams are becoming popular options at the local level.

 

An important energy source in several countries. It currently contributes 85% of global renewable electricity.

Tidal

Turbines within barrages (dams) built across river estuaries use rising and falling tides to generate electricity.

There are few tidal barrages (the largest is the Rance in France) due to high costs and environmental concerns.

Geothermal

Water heated underground in contact with hot rocks creates steam that drives turbines to generate electricity.

Limited to tectonically active countries:

·the USA (has the most geothermal plants – 77)

 

Iceland (provides 30% of the country’s energy)

 

The Philippines and New Zealand.

Wave

Waves force air into a chamber where it turns a turbine linked to a generator.

Portugal has built the world’s first wave farm, which started generating electricity in 2008.

·

here are many experimental wave farms but costs are high and there are environmental concerns.

Solar

Photovoltaic cells mounted on solar panels convert sunlight into electricity.

Energy production is seasonal.

 

Solar panel ‘farms’ need a lot of space.

 

Great potential in some LICs with high levels of sunshine.

 

Non-renewable Energy

Fossil fuels were formed millions of years ago so will run out. They are still plenty of fossil fuels remaining to be exploited but they cause problems due to greenhouse gas emissions, so whilst we can increase energy supply with them, there are consequences for this. Ways of improving the outcomes from burning fossil fuels include carbon capture strategies which involve collecting and storing the carbon release from burning the fuel rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. This is very expensive and there are no guarantees on how long the carbon will remian in the geological reservoirs for. We will look in more detail at advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels next lesson. The UK are expected to open a new £160 million deep coal mine in Cumbria that will extract 2.7 million of tonnes of coal each year, supplying coal for 50 years. However, this contradicts the UK's 2050 carbon neutral plans. 

 

Nuclear power accounts for 5% of the world’s energy production. Because nuclear power uses uranium to create energy through a process called nuclear fission it is classed as a non-renewable energy. The cost of the raw materials is relatively cheap, however the main problem is that dangerous radioactive material is made as a by-product. It can remain dangerous for over 100 years after use. There is generally a good safety record but many countries worry about future accidents similar to those in Chernobyl in Russia (1986) and Fukushima in Japan (2011).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of oil extraction in the North Sea?

 

Oil, like gas and coal is a fossil fuel and has formed over millions of years. Oil and gas is formed when small plants and animals die and fall to the sea bed where they decompose. As sediment is deposited it builds up over time forming sedimentary rock and the pressure and heat converts the remains into oil and gas. To extract the oil and gas, a hole is drilled into the sea bed and extracted to the surface. The UK started producing oil from the North Sea in the 1950s before later discovering gas there in the 1980s.

 

The North Sea is a shallow north eastern marginal sea in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located between the British Isles and the mainland of north western Europe. The sea is bordered by the island of Great Britain to the southwest and west, the Orkney and Shetland islands to the northwest, Norway to the northeast, Denmark to the east, Germany and the Netherlands to the southeast, and Belgium and France to the south. It is connected to the Atlantic by the Strait of Dover and the English Channel and opens directly onto the ocean between the Orkney and Shetland islands and between the Shetland Islands and Norway. 

 

The UK has the right to drill for oil that lies around its coastline, if it falls in its exclusive economic zone. Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands can also drill for oil in other parts of the North Sea. The UK and Norway have the largest reserves of oil in the North Sea. It is estimated that less 50% of these reserves remain in the North Sea and oil is due to run out in the second half of the 21st century. There are over 100 oil installations in the North Sea owned by companies such as BP, Shell and Total.

 

The Gannet oilfield is located 180km (112 miles) to the east of Aberdeen in Scotland. The North Sea is about 95 metres deep here. Shell have operated oil and gas production from the Gannet Alpha platform since 1993. Its produces around 88,000 barrels of oil per day and transports it by pipeline to Teesside.

 

Advantages:

  • The Gannet Oilfield produces around 88,000 barrels of oil per day allowing the UK to produce its own oil. This means it is less reliant on imports and less vulnerable to changes in global oil prices.
  • The UK can sell surplus oil which is good for economic growth. In 2018, the UK export 22,219 tonnes of oil.
  • Jobs are created in the oil industry. This has increased employment in Aberdeen creating a multiplier effect in the city. On average people in Aberdeen earn £150 more per week than the rest of Scotland and unemployment is less than 1%.
  • The oilfield provides other jobs in Aberdeen. People are employed in the transport industry taking workers to and from the oil rig there are oil refineries on land. The government benefits from tax revenues.

Disadvantages:

  • Oil is a finite resource and will eventually run out. It is estimated that less 50% of these reserves remain in the North Sea and oil is due to run out in the second half of the 21st century.
  • The UK does not produce enough oil to supply the whole of the UK so it imports oil from other countries. The UK imports more oil than it exports.
  • In 2015, global oil prices fell and the oil that was being produced in the North Sea became less profitable. As a result Shell lost money and announced it would see the oilfield. Oil and Gas UK asked the UK government to reduce tax contributions so that Shell could continue to make a profit.
  • There is a potential for oil spills and accidents. In August 2011 a leak ion the flow line between Gannet Platform and Aberdeen led to an estimated 1300 barrels od oil being spilled into the sea. This affects sea birds and marine biodiversity. Shell were later fined £22,500.
  • Drilling for oil uses fossil fuels and contributes to GHG emissions. In 2018, Shell operations emitted 2.22 million tonnes of CO2. Shell have committed to lowering their GHG emissions.