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Study Notes

Energy Mix

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The Energy Mix of a country is the specific combination of different energy sources it uses to meet its energy consumption needs.

Energy mix varies according to the energy resources available to a country – either as national resources or what it can import, choices over what it exploits (Germany and Japan are reducing their nuclear energy production), standard of living (the type of appliances that can be afforded by most people and the level of energy bills they can contemplate) and level of development.

A nation’s energy consumption is likely to come from various sources as different types of energy are more suitable for some uses than others:

Transport energy: largely based on oil to produce petrol (cars), diesel (lorries & trains), kerosene (aircraft), and heavy oil (ships).

Domestic energy: this can be subdivided into needs for Heating (gas, oil, wood, coal), Cooking (gas, electricity, charcoal, wood), and Appliances (electricity).

Business and Commerce: Industry may require large amounts of heat for industrial processes (oil, gas, coal) while offices and retail require electricity and agriculture requires large amounts of mechanical energy (oil).

It’s also the case that the same fuel can be processed into different forms of energy. Coal may be burnt directly to produce heat in a factory to melt iron ore, or burnt in a power-station to produce heat, to convert water to steam, to drive a generator and create electricity. When a fuel is used in a ‘direct’ energy conversion process it is known as Primary Energy, when it is converted through a two- or more stage energy-release process it is called Secondary Energy.

Electricity can be produced as Primary Energy by means of Hydro-Electric Power (HEP) and photo-voltaic cells (solar panels), but is more commonly created by Secondary processes through the burning of coal, oil and gas to produce steam in power-stations, or by the release of radiation from uranium to convert water to steam in nuclear power stations.

A further classification of energy sources is between Renewable and Non-renewable energy. Those which use Finite resources (reduced in availability as they are used) include the Fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) whereas those that are continually replenished are Sustainable over the long-term (HEP, wind, solar, biomass). Some, which were once considered renewable – such as Geothermal energy – are being reclassified by a few writers as non-renewable as by exploiting sub-surface hot rocks, the process of pumping cold water down to receive hot steam in return is being shown to cool down and reduce the geothermal process.

Some countries are heavily dependent upon a narrow range of energy sources; some depend upon a diversified energy mix. For some countries, they can exploit their own energy supply mix; others rely on imports. The likely reliability of supply can determine the Energy Security of a country.

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