There might be a range of considerations for different cities and regions when making decisions on their energy mix for the future.
Below, we list some of those potential considerations – sustainability, social, practical and technical, economic, and so on.
Potential Considerations For Choosing Different Energy Sources In The Future
Sustainability, & Environmental Considerations
Human Health & Safety Considerations
Practical & Technical
– Can a city or country practically transition to using more of a specific energy source with their current energy mix, power grid, and infrastructure in mind, or, are there many challenges?
For example, a city or country may have to consider:
Compatibility with existing energy sources
The design of the existing power grid, as well as how integration would work
Infrastructure used to generate, transport and distribute power
– What are the current production and consumption totals for an individual energy source?
This may give an idea of how established an energy source is, along with the level of supply and demand in the market
– What is the trend in production and consumption over the last few years and decades for an individual energy source?
Has there been growth, or, has there been stagnation or a decrease?
– Where is investment currently going, and what do future projections indicate about different energy sources?
This may give an idea of which energy sources are likely to grow in the future
Large scale hydro for example has stagnated in growth on a global level according to some statistics
– Can an individual energy source be used on an individual level, as well as at a commercial or utility level?
Solar panels for example can be used by individuals, as well as at a commercial and utility level
– Energy potential of the energy source, in terms of the scale it can be used at
How much total power can it provide, and, is it more suitable for small towns, or for large cities?
Does it have further scope to grow in energy potential in the future?
– What is the energy density/power density of the energy source like?
This is how much energy or power the energy source has per unit
Water tends to be more energy dense than wind as well
– Is the energy source variable?
Does it fluctuate in power output like solar and wind can?
Or, is power output more consistent like conventional energy sources generally are?
Also for variable energy sources …
Is backup energy needed?
Is energy storage needed? (like large batteries)
Will fluctuating power cause grid instability?
Will excess power need to be sold off or unloaded when there’s too much power being produced?
– Is the energy source dispatchable?
Can the energy source be ramped up quickly (and down as well), turned on and off, and the power output adjusted as required from grid operators?
Some reports indicate that coal and nuclear can take hours and days to cycle up and down, whereas natural gas can fire up within a few minutes.
Other reports may identify suitable types of energy for dispatchable energy sources and backup energy sources
– How efficient is the energy source?
i.e. converting energy to electricity
– How long do energy generation projects take to set up?
How long does it take (in years) to design, build/construct, and commission the power plant or power site for example? Coal and nuclear power plants take a certain number of years to set up
On the other hand, smaller solar setups can be installed much more quickly
– Can building an energy generation project be staged, or does it require all-in-one construction?
Coal and nuclear power plants need to be built all at once
With wind farms or solar farms for example – you can choose exactly how many wind turbines or solar panels you’ll set up
– Is decentralisation possible for the energy project?
Can the energy site be decentralised and distributed across multiple locations (with a modular set up), or does a power plant have to be built on one site only?
Solar panels for example can be set up across multiple locations. The same is true for wind.
– What is the operation lifespan of the power project?
How many years does it last before it has to be decommissioned, shut down, replaced, or disposed of?
– Can existing power plants or equipment be upgraded in terms of capacity and performance, or, can plant lifetime be extended?
– Does the energy source have potential to be developed or improved further in the future?
For example, can things like the efficiency or power output of the technology be improved over time?
Renewables like solar and wind might have more development left in them in various ways
There may be areas for development and improvement for nuclear too
Even some fossil fuels may benefit from new extraction methods making more supplies available in the future
– Is the energy source portable?
– Can the energy source be set up in rural and isolated areas?
– Can the energy source provide off grid energy in addition to feeding into the grid?
– What does the energy equipment look like aesthetically?
Wind farms might look visibly unattractive
– Does the equipment make noise?
Wind turbines might make at least some noise
– Are there land issues to consider for siting new power generation sites, or for installing transmission lines and other infrastructure?
Such as having enough suitable land, and are there any issues with land rights and land or siting approval?
– Can equipment be installed in places other than land?
Some energy sources can be installed on freshwater bodies, off shore in the ocean (for offshore wind), on buildings (for solar), and so on
– How easy is it to maintain equipment?
Offshore wave energy farms for example could be difficult and costly to maintain
Wind turbines may also have some challenges in maintaining and repairing
Solar panels might be easier to clean and maintain
– Is re-fuelling of energy projects required?
Coal power plants for example need to be re-fuelled, whereas solar and wind don’t require refuelling
Cost & Economics
– Does a city have the financial means (i.e. the budget) to introduce, integrate, and use an energy source?
– What stage is a country’s economy at, and what are the priorities of the country?
Some countries are still at an economic stage where they need to prioritise economic development, and they need certain energy sources (because they are cheap, have good power density, and so on) to continue to grow
– What are the production side costs and considerations for the energy source?
Research and development
Manufacturing (of equipment)
Constructing power projects (power plants, reactors, etc.)
Operation stage costs (labor, maintenance, repairs, re-fuelling, the cost to manage waste by-products etc.)
Decomissionining and de-constructing power plants or reactors
Land restoration/rehabilitation costs
Building or upgrading infrastructure
Upgrading the power grid
Profitability for investors and producers/suppliers might also be considered here, as well as payback periods for investment.
– What are the consumer side costs for the energy source?
Impact on electricity prices
Cost of home/off grid equipment and set ups
Net costs of using the an energy source at home (like solar panels)
New taxes paid to support the energy source
– What level of government support will be provided by the government for the energy source?
Subsidies, taxes, fines and penalties, etc.
Also, regulations and legislation, energy portfolios, and similar government tools can be used
– How many jobs does the energy source provide?
– What is the total value of the energy source to the economy?
Does it contribute to the national, as well as local economies and communities?
– What are the economics of transporting the energy source, and also logistics?
e.g. brown coal can be non cost effective to transport certain distances
– How will demand be impacted by fluctuation in oil prices and fossil fuel prices?
Fossil fuels are used in different renewable energy sources
– Are there indirect economic costs associated with using an energy source?
Such as the cost of having to clean up air pollution, the cost of having to clean up water pollution, the cost of addressing other forms of waste pollution, the cost on the public health care system where there’s a contribution to health conditions and disease, and so on
A few more general notes on energy source considerations for the future might be …
There’s many factors that can ultimately impact the energy mix of any country in the future (both primary energy, and energy used specifically for electricity generation)
For example, macroeconomics, market forces, world oil prices, technological progress, government policies and tools related to energy, and other factors can impact the energy sector.
Past energy trends, current production and consumption (as well as investment), and future projections can all indicate what has happened, and what might happen in the future
Energy forecasts are not definitive though – they are more of an educated estimate/prediction.
It’s also possible that whilst total energy production or consumption might increase for a particular energy source, it’s % share of the energy mix may not increase.
Different energy sources can be divided into their different sub categories e.g. the different types of renewable energy sources, or the difference between old coal and new coal power plants (or even black coal vs brown coal).
An example of a future variable that could impact the way energy is used in the future could be the electrification of vehicles – moving from petroleum based fuels to grid power.
Considerations May Differ Between Individual Cities & Countries
These are generalised considerations only.
Individual cities and regions will have their own considerations based on factors and variables applicable to them.
Also, some energy sources are going to be better for specific applications (electricity vs vehicle energy for example) than others.
More Information On The Different Energy Sources
In addition to the above considerations, you can check out:
Which energy source might be ‘the best’ across various indicators or aspects:
The pros and cons of different energy sources:
1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides','' ); } ?>