Towards a sustainable global energy supply infrastructure: Net energy balance and density considerations☆

Publication year: 2011
Source: Energy Policy, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 14 June 2011

Ioannis N., Kessides , David C., Wade

This paper employs a framework of dynamic energy analysis to model the growth potential of alternative electricity supply infrastructures as constrained by innate physical energy balance and dynamic response limits. Coal-fired generation meets the criteria of longevity (abundance of energy source) and scalability (ability to expand to the multi-terawatt level) which are critical for a sustainable energy supply chain, but carries a very heavy carbon footprint. Renewables and nuclear power, on the other hand, meet both the longevity and environmental friendliness criteria. However, due to their substantially different energy densities and load factors, they vary in terms of their ability…

 Highlights: ► We model the growth potential of alternative electricity supply infrastructures. ► Coal is scalable and abundant but carries a heavy carbon footprint. ► Renewables and nuclear meet the longevity and environmental friendliness criteria. ► The low power density and intermittency of renewables limit their growth potential. ► Nuclear power continues to raise concerns about proliferation, safety, and waste.