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How Energy Tech Can Meet Needs of Rapid Population Growth

Alternative Energy

Looking at global energy markets today, it is clear that current resources can meet growing energy demand.

During 2014, global primary energy consumption reached around 13,000 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent) largely from fossil fuels (78 percent) with less than 20 percent from renewables, and nuclear power making up the remainder.

This mix will likely continue during next few decades, with varying percentages, growth (or contraction) rates from renewables, fossil and nuclear.

A clear opportunity comes from the fact that buildings account for about 40 percent of total global energy consumption; that natural gas usage is growing in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, and also that a large percentage of produced liquid hydrocarbons are used for transportation.

It is estimated that the world’s population will reach about 7.5 billion as early as 2020. Large urban areas will expand even further, with higher energy demands and concentrations; rural areas are expected to continue demanding more access to energy and technology. Apart from the urgency of eliminating energy related deaths, the United Nations is highlighting that 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity, and 2.8 billion still rely on unsustainable solid biomass for cooking and heating.

Related: BP’s Risky Investments Turning Sour

Based on this scenario (supply and demand), an important energy infrastructure investment is needed to meet the rising global energy demand – estimated between $35 to $45 trillion within the next two decades.

There is no single solution to meet our future energy needs; instead, it would come from a combination of diverse energy sources and technologies as well as policies and actions. Renewables growth is expected to remain strong and rapidly growing, providing a cleaner and more energy efficient alternative for areas without access to electricity at present.

There are different strengths and weaknesses for each technology. For example, we could look at the energy footprint, a measure of the land required to produce an equivalent unit of energy.

This footprint can vary by orders of magnitude depending on the source and its maturity, with nuclear being the smallest, continuing in increasing order to geothermal, coal, natural gas, solar, conventional petroleum, hydropower, wind, biomass and biofuels.

Then there are net capacity factors, defined as the ratio of the actual output to the maximum it can produce. For instance coal, nuclear, biofuels and geothermal range from 80 to 95 percent; solar between 16 and 30 percent, and wind (onshore and offshore) 25 to 55 percent. Many of the renewable sources should be analyzed as seasonal and sometimes in hourly variations.

Here is another way of looking at this problem. A general and simplified footprint factor representation may be tried using the index value of 1.00 for conventional petroleum as the reference level for footprint. This will result in the following power sources with smaller than petroleum footprint factor: nuclear at around 0.06 to 0.10 (including the surrounding controlled exclusion zone), geothermal 0.20, coal 0.25, solar thermal 0.35, natural gas 0.4, solar photovoltaic 0.75.

With similar representation, the following power sources with larger than petroleum footprint factor are: hydropower 1.2, wind 1.6 and biomass varying from 6.0 up to 20.0 compared to petroleum footprint. Again, these figures are highly variable, depending on the different scenarios and conditions.

Technologies applied to develop unconventional resources brought a substantial reduction in surface footprint. The ability to drill multiple wells from a single well pad combined with drilling long / extended horizontal wells is providing access to a much larger subsurface spatial resource, at a greatly reduced surface footprint. It is estimated that, with equivalent energy output, shale gas development reduced footprint by a factor of 3 to 5 compared with conventional gas reservoirs (or a factor of 4.5 to 8 compared to wind farms or 2.5 to 4 compared with solar energy). This will further improve with evolving well construction techniques, re-fracturing, enhanced recovery, and detailed reservoir studies.

Solar photovoltaic land-use and total system efficiency is largely improved by installing rooftop panels in residential and industrial buildings while reducing electricity transmission losses. As reference, transmission lossess could reach up to 6 percent per 1000 km of line.

Onshore wind turbines can be optimized by using the land between them. In certain cases, the land could be used for agricultural, industrial and other activites. The previously discussed index – footprint factor – could drop from 1.6 to 0.1, with the consequent additional benefit. Certainly, a different consideration will apply if the land is not suitable for such purposes. Mixed solar-wind “farms” could further optimize land utilization at a higher total efficiency and investment payback.

We will continue seeing new and potentially disruptive technologies coming to market that will accelerate the implementation of greener energy sources, gradually replacing fossil fuel utilization – also providing energy access to areas where it is lacking today.

As mentioned before, there is no unique or winning solution to this multi variable scenario. To provide sustainability among different user segments, affordability and environmental compliance (World Energy Council defined “energy trilemma”), a complementary approach and attitude is needed to ensure a long term strategic allocation and balance of the different sources. Long-term investment mentality, technology and efficient production are needed, supported by a credible and effective global policy.

By Pedro Vergel for

32 Comments on "How Energy Tech Can Meet Needs of Rapid Population Growth"

  1. dave thompson on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 7:22 pm 

    Techno energy dreams of endless growth.

  2. Newfie on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 7:39 pm 

    Mmmm… Isn’t this planet finite ?

  3. MSN Fanboy on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 8:26 pm 

    The article forgot fusion,…

    “Looking at global energy markets today, it is clear that current resources can meet growing energy demand”


  4. Davy on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 9:04 pm 

    “Looking at global energy markets today, it is clear that current resources can meet growing energy demand”

    This is probably true for a while because of demand destruction. Supply destruction will follow but likely delayed. This could allow for continued adequate supply in a contracting global economy. We know there are plenty of hydrocarbon resources just not the affordable ones we need for global growth.

  5. Northwest Resident on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 10:32 pm 

    Davy, the only question is how much demand destruction does it take before the demand destructees get rebellious? Or will everyone just sail quietly into the night?

  6. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 4:12 am 

    Demand destruction

    Doomers are innumerate retards. 🙂

  7. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 5:52 am 

    The majority of the worlds infrastructure was not built with lease condensate. Just the plastic pipe. That’s what I think your chart is – a corny plastic pipe dream. ):

  8. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 6:15 am 

    Is that your best shot?

    Jeffrey cherry-picking “Export Land Model” Brown, now “Condensate” Brown aka westexas. The Emperor without clothes. ROTFLMFAO

    Doomers are innumerate retards playing with crayolas in caves.

  9. Davy on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 6:27 am 

    Moron Marmi is another one like the Makster with an agenda blowing up in his face. Marmi, you have been quiet about China. Why don’t you introduce some pathetic freddy charts explaining how China is really doing great and will not affect the global economy? Maybe some charts that show in a sly and deceptive way there is no exposure to American banks from the Chinese implosion. That way you can feel secure with your tiny wanna-be big-ish investment penny stock portfolio.

  10. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 6:36 am 

    Nony, I don’t get/know your reference.

  11. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 6:38 am 

    Go husk some corn you innumerate word salad prattle asshole. Maybe you can squeeze some of the silk (your distillery) into one of your play toys on the doomstead.

    Who takes care of your Missouri play toys while you play pretend
    doomer winters in the Bahamas and summers in Italy?

  12. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 6:54 am 

    Oh no nony

    Deflation Is Winning – Beware!
    Expect the ride to get even rougher
    by Chris Martenson

  13. Davy on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 7:16 am 

    Ye ha, ridem cowboy. I pissed butt breath marmi off. Perfect!

  14. joe on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 7:24 am 

    They quote the UN as if the 2bln people without electricity are going to get it. Providing capital infrastructure to regions likely to depopulate during urbanisation is pointless. These areas would have got these services long ago if they were worth delivering. Instead it will be simply completing a cycle and they won’t do it without corporate welfare. Is that efficient?
    The closer we get to the crunch time of global warming, population boom, aging population and peak oil, the more I hear of tech being the answer. Fusion, or renewables. Building a fusion power plant without fossil fuels will be like building the pyramids.

  15. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 7:31 am 

    So you are into knife fights are ya Doomer Davy?

    Tuff guy, eh!

    You are innumerate word salad prattle pathetic piece of shit.

  16. Davy on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 7:48 am 

    Yeap, with assholes like dumb ass Richy from dumbass that want to execute me per his board comment.

    I have a large collection of knives for the collapse. And you butt breath? Only a pussy would make a comment on something that serious like it is derogatory. I can just picture your pussy ass running off when your wife is getting gang raped. What a coward of a butt breath.

  17. GregT on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 7:56 am 

    Sounds like somebody’s a bit edgy. How’s the markets doing Nony? Still haven’t figured things out eh. Don’t worry, all will eventually become crystal clear for you.

  18. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 8:01 am 

    Challenging Richy to a knife fight was not the first time you lying innumerate word salad prattle piece of shit.

    Tuff guy, eh!

    You are a pretentious crayola cave fucktard doomer who winters in the Bahamas and summers in Italy.

  19. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 8:34 am 

    Nony, why so angry? I thought corns were happy optimistic people void of worry and spite. Might I suggest a rereading of Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret”, Danny Yergin’s “The Prize” and anything by Uncle Milton Friedman to recharge those belief batteries.

  20. Kenz300 on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 8:44 am 

    Maybe RAPID POPULATION GROWTH needs to be addresses as the problem it is.

    Endless population growth is not sustainable.

    Birth Control Permanent Methods: Learn About Effectiveness

  21. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 8:48 am 

    Don’t you have a link to make, apeman, while you patiently wait to inherit your Vancouver property?

    In the interim, Doomer Davy’s psychopathological knife fighting is in issue.

    Shoulder launched missile from 2 miles away coupled with high definition slo-mo low IQ brain matter splattered should settle the issue.

  22. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:18 am 

    Nony, another wrong over generalized guess from the disruptor play book. Obviously, my links are getting to you because they effectively counter your bullshit and it drives you crazy with envy that I get compliments like this one every couple of days while you mostly get told to fuck off.

    “Re: I don’t want to be a doomer but I am

    Postby pstarr » Fri 24 Jul 2015, 08:06:22
    Apneaman, I like your links, they rings true.”

  23. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:51 am 

    Heh, you can inherit your Vancouver property and buy four for cash next to Our Finite World Tverberg in the north Atlanta suburbs. Hurry, the currency exchange rate is going the wrong way.

    Wow, pstarr. 15000 posts in a decade. That’s 4 per day every day for a decade. I’m certain less than 1% are worth reading.

  24. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:11 am 

    No one I’m related to owns any property in Vancouver and there will be no inheritance for me, but keep pulling shit out of your ass nony – apparently you like the way it feels sphincter boy.

  25. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:25 am 

    Another pathological lying retard. You just thought you would move to the highest housing cost area in Canada (Vancouver) from one of the lowest cost areas in the U.S. (Atlanta) because you are pathologically stoopid.

    Are knife fights bloodier in East End Vancouver than in Atlanta?

  26. Cassie on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:28 am 

    Marmico, you sound like you need a bed partner. Work on those social skills a bit and who knows?

    Make that work on them a lot. Really.

  27. marmico on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:42 am 

    Heh, Cassie, FUCK OFF!!

    Davy-Doomer should be jailed for threatening others. Maybe you could make an appointment at the pen.

    Tweenies like you love to blow weenies like him!

  28. Northwest Resident on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 12:21 pm 

    Hey marmico, your nasty vile insulting self is in full gear this morning. How about throwing one of your best (or worst) piles of shit my way. I’m ready for another laugh. What a pathetic character you are.

  29. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 12:29 pm 

    Fuck you nony you little sub ape skid mark. Your the one with the proven track record of unabashed lying. I have stated a number of times on this site that I left Georgia in 2008, yet only moved to the lower main land last year to help out with my widowed mother. So where was I for those 5 years? I have mentioned where I was living a number of times as well, but apparently you did not make a note of it or are lying again. House prices, here or on mars, mean nothing to me as I have 90% uncoupled from the system and have ZERO debt. Not everyone has devoted every waking moment to acquiring money and made it their sole purpose for existing along with trying to convince everyone else to as well. Everyday more people are making the informed choice of distancing themselves from a dying ideological/economic/political system. Many more are being forced to because what use to work and serve many serves less people everyday and is soon to enter the long list of dead ape constructed belief systems and their worshipers. Neo liberalism is a specialized predator that eats only one thing and when the prey is extinct, moves or adapts new camouflage or defenses the predator dies off. Sooner the better.

  30. Northwest Resident on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 1:32 pm 

    apneaman — Nony and his sidekick marmico curse you for that rant, and pray to the Econ 101 gods that a fracking company will soon move into your area to conduct unregulated operations.

  31. BC on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 5:15 pm 

    Man, how did I miss getting the word about tickets to the cage match to the bloody death?! I would have paid up for that.


  32. BC on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 7:17 pm 

    “Is Humanity Suicidal”?

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