The Energy Challenge

Chapter 16.

Energy availability

Non-renewable energy

Years to peak production...

Your briefing paper highlights

  • Germany--Germany!--is getting 15% of its electricity from solar power. Hopes for 30% by 2020.
  • [Last year] High speed train in France has significantly reduced the pressure for more roads and personal transportation.
  • ~80% of French electricity from nuclear power.
  • Denmark supplies ~20% of its electricity from wind.
  • Sweden has significantly reduced energy for heating houses with upgraded building codes.


If a country uses less energy, how can we tell whether it was because

  • our standard of living went down? or
  • our efficiency of using energy went up?

The Gross National Product is very crudely proportional to our standard of living. So let's compare energy use to GNP...

Energy use and GNP

Conservation potential

See also this Nationmaster graph of the UN's Human Development index vs per capita energy consumption.

U.S. energy flows 2008 (Quads)

Nuclear energy

Average British person uses each day...

  • 4 kg of coal, 4 kg of oil, and 8 kg of natural gas = 16 kg /day fossil fuels.
  • $CO_2$ Emissions: 30 kg / day

Energy of 16 kg fossil fuels =
      Energy of 0.002 kg uranium, refined from 0.2 kg ore / day


EU and (red) Paul Scherer Inst estimates.



  • Ash from 10 coal-fired power plants: 40 liters (10 gallons) per person per year.
  • $CO_2$: ~1.00 kg / kwh. (Natural gas: 0.46 kg / kwh


  • Waste from all of 10 UK nuclear reactors: 0.84 liters per person per year.
  • $CO_2$: 0.066 kg / kwh (life cycle emissions

A passionate environmentalist?

George Monbiot writes (right after Fukushima)

Even when nuclear power plants go horribly wrong, they do less damage to the planet and its people than coal-burning stations operating normally.


Writing exercise...

Suggested exercises

Chapter 16, Conceptual exercises: 2, 7, 8, 21, 23, 26, 31,

Image credits

PFBR from IAEA , EFDA-JET, Frank von Mierlo