There is no perfect energy generating solution 1


When I was writing in October my article on the clean alternatives to coal, I was planning to add at the bottom a page summing up the pros and cons of each solution.

I never did so but still found this document interesting as it sums up quite well the situation at hand. Each and every possibility has darker sides.

You will find below my findings on the various energy sources, as well as on fossil fuels like natural gas and oil.

Energy efficiency and behavioural changes

I differentiate energy efficiency and behavioural changes as they are similar but still different. To learn out more on this topic, please check my previous article Difference between behavioural change and efficiency.

Pros

– It has a seriously huge potential and variety of means.
– Best way to decrease the overall energy consumption ;
– Educate people and empower them ;
– Save a lot of money ;
– Can be applied everywhere (housing, industry, transportation…)

Cons

– Needs to educate people on all levels ;
– Resistance by some people denying the benefits of such practices.
– More or less interesting or efficient.

Renewable energies

Pros

– No greenhouse gases emissions during the operation cycle ;
– Can generate electricity / heat near where it is needed it thus cut the losses due to transportation ;
– Can be coupled with coal-fired plants ;
– Variety of means (solar, geothermal, biomass, wind etc)

Cons

– Prices are still too high for mass consumption ;
– Yield is sometimes low ;
– Require large investments (especially hydro power) ;
– Intermittent energy sources. (fossil fuels are required to supplement)

Nuclear power

Pros

– No greenhouse gases emissions during the operation cycle ;
– Ultra low emissions during life cycle as they are 50 times less than coal ;
– Improved yield and safety compared to the beginnings of nuclear power ;
– The new generation of plants like EPR are even more secure and interesting ;
– Very competitive prices of kWh (cf. case of France);
– Price do not depend much on raw materials.

Cons

– Produces waste ;
– Safety issues (terrorists threats) ;
– Needs constant monitoring ;
– Needs water to cool the reactors ;
– Public acceptance

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Pros

– A very promising solution as it cuts carbon dioxide emissions by 75 to 90 percent ;
– Operates directly at the source of the greenhouse gases emissions in coal-fired plants ;
– Enables to keep on consuming coal, which has ample reserves ;

Cons

– Not in commercial use yet as it is still being tested (ready by 2020-25) ;
– Transportation issues ;
– Uncertainty (could carbon dioxide go back to the surface ?)
– Emissions of other greenhouse gases.
– Interesting only for the largest plants.

Clean Coal Technologies (CCT)

Pros

– Decreases the amount of pollutants ;
– Enables to keep on consuming coal, which has ample reserves ;
– Increases efficiency
Cons

– Still no commercial application
– Will be ready for full scale deployment around 2020-2025.

Natural gas and oil

Pros

– Important variety of places of production ;
– Can be consumed in many ways.

Cons

– Important greenhouse gases emissions ;
– Political instability and unrest of producing countries ;
– Weather can effect production (example of Hurricane Katrina in 2005)
– Reserves aren’t that important (40 years for oil and 60 for natural gas)

All in all, the best solution for the world of tomorrow relies heavily on energy efficiency and behavioural changes as they can enable us to solve the problems of climate change and of peak oil.  (please see my articles on efficiency to learn out more).

The various renewable energies and nuclear are also great solutions to cut sharply our greenhouse gases emissions.

Finally, even if CCS and CCT are already working in some plants, most experts believe they won’t enable us to mitigate global warming before 2020, and this is why we have to use now all the above mentioned means.

For more info on all these energy sources and their news, stay tuned and don’t hesitate to check out the adequate tags.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “There is no perfect energy generating solution