Unit 2C: The Challenges of Resource Management (Renewable energy …
Unit 2C: The Challenges of Resource Management
Global patterns of energy
Global energy supply and consumption is not evenly distributed. Some places have an energy surplus, whereas others have an energy deficit.
Global energy supply
Different countries have the potential to exploit different amounts and types of energy. In general:
Saudi Arabia, Russia and the USA produce the most oil. Around 66% of global oil supplies are found in the Middle East. As technology improves, new supplies can be discovered and accessed more easily. There are huge, barely tapped reserves in South America, Africa and the Arctic.
The USA, Russia and China have the largest coal reserves. Around 70 countries have coal reserves and there is enough coal left to last for another 112 years.
The potential to generate renewable energy is determined by a country's location. Islands have the potential for wave power and tidal power, windy places can generate wind power, sunny countries can generate solar power, wet places with steep relief can generate hydroelectric power (HEP) and countries close to plate boundaries can generate geothermal power.
Global energy consumption
It is estimated that global energy consumption in 2040 will be 56% higher than in 2010. The growth in energy consumption will largely take place in developing countries.
Everyone uses energy, but if we all use less then we can reduce the amount needed. Energy use can be measured through carbon footprints. A bigger carbon footprint means that more energy is used and therefore more carbon is produced. Carbon footprints take into account:
Goods and products – energy is used to produce goods and so it is better to buy less. Owning electronic devices can be bad, especially if they're often left on standby rather than being switched off.
Transport – walking or using public transport is best, because travelling by car uses petrol or diesel per person. Aeroplanes use much more fuel than other forms of transport.
Food miles – buying local food can use less energy as food it is transported a shorter distance. However, sometimes food grown locally requires a lot of energy to produce because of the bright, warm conditions needed to grow food in huge greenhouses all-year round.
New homes built in the UK have lots of energy-saving measures, like loft and wall insulation, radiator thermostats and smart energy meters that monitor energy use. This is because any homes that are built or rented out have an energy rating, where A-rated homes use the least energy and G-rated homes use the most.
Businesses and organisations like to be energy efficient because it saves money. Public buildings like schools and hospitals have to display an energy certificate to show how much energy they use.
Local councils encourage people to use sustainable methods of transport. This could be through providing public transport, creating cycle lanes or introducing congestion charging. London has all of these measures, plus an underground train network and a cycle hire scheme.
Modern life is dependent upon the use of electrical items. The European Union (EU) has introduced a system that rates household appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers - A+++ items use the least electricity and D items use the most. This helps people to choose products that use less energy.
Renewable technologies offer a way to increase energy supplies, however they are often more expensive or less efficient at producing energy than fossil fuels. Therefore they often require government subsidies.
Wave power and tidal power
Global energy use is still dominated by non-renewable energy. The use of non-renewable can be made more efficient. This could increase energy supplies as less fuel would be used.
Fossil fuels - coal and gas power stations can now re-use wasted heat in. These are called combined-cycle systems. Re-using heat makes the most out of the fossil fuel. Also, some power stations now burn small amounts of biomass alongside fossil fuels. This is called co-firing and it makes the fossil fuel last longer. Fracking could exploit shale gas, which would increase supplies of fossil fuels.
Nuclear power - uranimum fuel rods still have some uranium left within them after they have been used. Reprocessing recovers the uranium from spent fuel rods so that it can be reused. This doesn't create new supplies of uranium, but it does use the existing supplies more efficiently. This means that uranium supplies will last longer.