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Is There Such a Thing as a “Net Energy Cliff?”

Is There Such a Thing as a “Net Energy Cliff?” thumbnail

New research outlines how energy resource depletion and declining energy return on investment (EROI) may affect prosperity.

Modern, prosperous lifestyles are heavily dependent on the availability of abundant, low-cost energy supplies. In fact, a society and its component parts (people, groups, organisations, institutions) are physical systems that require inflows of affordable energy resources with high thermodynamic quality to perform work and power their various functions. To date, modern societies largely source their energy supplies from fossil fuels, which raises important sustainability concerns related to both their exhaustibility and the environmental degradation induced by their large-scale use.

One specific concern regards the ‘energetic productivity’ of energy resources, and its evolution in the face of resource depletion and energy transitions. Gathering energy resources from the environment indeed generally consumes large amounts of labor and capital, but also of energy, meaning that only part of the energy obtained is effectively available to do other things than extracting and producing energy. The amount of energy supplied by an energy resource divided by the energy consumed in gathering that resource can be conceptualized as an energy return ratio (ERR). The most well-known of these ratios is the ‘energy return on (energy) invested’ (abbreviated EROI or EROEI) i.e. the ratio between the total amount of energy delivered by an energy resource during its working lifetime and the amount of energy invested in obtaining it.

EROI is conceptually related to measures of energy productivity. Productive energy resources are those yielding a large amount of energy to society for each unit of energy (or other inputs) expended, while energy resources that require large amounts of energy (or other inputs) and yield only a limited amount of energy surplus are considered unproductive. Since all non-energy sector activities rely, by definition, on the surplus output of the energy sector, this energetic surplus underlies all other economic activities.

In recent years, questions have been raised concerning the link between EROI and overall economic prosperity. A growing body of research indeed suggests that high societal EROI levels are strongly correlated with high standards of living, that the level of prosperity attained by modern, mostly Western, societies is heavily dependent on the use of high-EROI fossil energy sources, and that a minimum aggregate EROI value must be maintained to support modern, prosperous societies. At lowered energy productivity levels – or lower EROI levels – energy becomes expensive and costly to obtain – in energy terms – and consumption of energy to support other functions of society becomes constrained. A number of studies have explored the effects of declining EROI on society and found that, below a certain threshold, declining EROI results in rapid increases in the fraction of energy that must be dedicated to simply supporting the energy system. This phenomenon has become known as the “net energy cliff”, an expression coined by energy analyst Euan Mearns.

EROI studies show that the net energy gain of conventional fossil fuels has historically been high but is declining over time as resources get depleted, decrease in quality and get more difficult to obtain, while alternatives such as unconventional fossil fuels (e.g. shale/tight oil and gas), nuclear, bio-fuels or renewable energy sources tend to have lower energy return ratios. As societies and economies transition away from high net energy resources such as ‘conventional’ fossil fuels and towards lower net energy resources such as unconventional fossil fuels or renewables, either voluntarily (e.g. to fight climate change) or due to resource constraints, a number of researchers and analysts have argued that we might be approaching the “net energy cliff”, beyond which the energy sector would start crowding out other economic activities and our modern, prosperous lifestyles would be endangered.

Net Energy Cliff - Euan Mearns

The Net Energy Cliff shows how with declining EROI society must commit ever larger amounts of available energy to energy gathering activities. Source: Euan Mearns, Energy Matters.

So far, however, no general mathematical or theoretical framework has been built to support the calculation of quantitative values for the minimum EROI for a prosperous society. A new paper by energy researcher Adam Brandt from Stanford University, recently published in the new peer-reviewed journal dedicated to biophysical economics, BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality (BERQ), seeks to fill this gap.

How Does Energy Resource Depletion Affect Prosperity? Mathematics of a Minimum Energy Return on Investment (EROI)
BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality, March 2017, 2:2.
Adam R. Brandt

Brandt’s study addresses the following fundamental questions:

  • What is the causal mechanism by which declining energy resource productivity (i.e., declining EROI) affects overall societal prosperity?
  • Do impacts to prosperity arise from the structure of the energy sector, or do they arise due to the relationship of energy sector outputs to other economic activity?
  • Is the so-called “net energy cliff” an unavoidable aspect of declining energy productivity?

To try to answer these questions, Brandt developed a multi-sector matrix-based method making it possible to quantify, for the first time, the impacts of declining EROI on societal prosperity. His mathematical method is partially based on prior work on matrix-based approaches to computing energy return ratios, but relies more closely on inter-sector flows modeling using formulations from Input–Output (IO) economics.

Brandt defines prosperity as the capacity, for a society, to ensure that a larger fraction of the output from the economic system is free to put to use for discretionary uses. That is, a society is more prosperous when more of the produce of the economic system is not used simply to operate the basic economic system (i.e., inter-industry trade) but can be diverted to use by consumers as they see fit (i.e., final demand). A prosperous society, therefore, is able to invest more of its produce (be it steel, glass, or high-skilled services) into discretionary activities. These might include advanced education, science, entertainment, temperature controlled living and working spaces, or discretionary travel. Such activities, in fact, are only possible when productive sectors are efficient enough that some abundance is left over after the basic requirements of the subsistence economic processes are met.

In highly prosperous societies, a large fraction of a given resource (human labor, energy, materials) is free to allocate as we please, while in societies that are closer to subsistence, a large fraction of the output of any product must be “plowed back” into powering economic processes. Our modern economies are prosperous, in other words, because relatively few of the hours we work, or very little of the material output we consume, are directly related to basic subsistence.

To explore the dynamics of an economic system confronted with declining energy resource productivity, Brandt generates a template economy composed of four sectors. Three of those sectors produce generic physical products (energy, materials, and food), and a generic labor sector is added to include the effects of changes in labor intensity on energy sector outputs. The labor sector consumes the physical products of the other sectors and supplies them with hours of input labor (either physical or intellectual). People therefore serve two functions in this model: they are both consumers of final output and suppliers of labor. The four-sector model generated has similarities with the five-sector capital, labor, energy, materials, and services (KLEMS) models used in some economic sub-disciplines.

Brandt then populates this template matrix using realistic, if approximate, values for each sector’s requirements (energy requirements, materials requirements, food requirements, and labor requirements) based on data available for the modern United States. This makes it possible to define a “baseline” matrix for the simple order-of-magnitude four-sector economy, as illustrated below.

cross-sector flows in baseline example model

Illustration of cross-sector flows in “baseline” example model

Based on this template four-sector model, Brandt then modulates the productivity of the energy sector to see how this affects the general level of prosperity. Starting with the above “baseline” example model, he simulates a steady increase of the intensity of the energy sector requirements. His results show that the productivity of the energy sector is directly related to the prosperity of the production process, measured as the fraction of a given sector’s output that is ‘free’, i.e. that can be allocated to discretionary uses. As the energy sector becomes less productive, it consumes more materials, labor and energy, and the output of the other sectors of society is increasingly dedicated to supplying inter-industry demand of the energy sector. The mechanism by which energy sector productivity affects overall prosperity is twofold: direct increases in material and energy use by the energy sector itself, and indirect increases due to increased consumption of output of other sectors.

Overall, the so-called “net energy cliff” is observed in all results from Brandt’s model. Despite the fact that the method by which EROI and net energy availability are computed in this model is different from those used in prior studies, a similar qualitative behavior is observed: a decline of the energy system productivity extends to all aspects of the economy by reducing the fraction of each sector’s output that can be allocated to discretionary uses. Below a certain level of net energy return, the fraction of productive outputs free to use in discretionary purposes declines rapidly, meaning that there is effectively a “minimum EROI” below which prosperity is burdened by excessive direct and indirect requirements of the energy sector. Concerning the “minimum EROI” values defining the “net energy cliff”, Brandt obtains different threshold values for different assumptions about the fraction of outputs that can be absorbed to inter-industry demand without affecting prosperity. Overall, however, the minimum EROI values obtained align with results from prior studies.

Brandt’s model thus gives an indication of the mechanisms by which energy productivity declines affect general prosperity, and of how uncertainty in the matrix specification impacts the level at which the minimum EROI becomes constraining. It also shows how productivity changes in other sectors (e.g., efficiency of materials production, or labor productivity) can affect the rate at which energy depletion affects prosperity. Indeed, energy productivity does not just depend on energy extraction performance, but also on other productivity changes throughout the system. It can be dragged down by drops in the efficiency of the labor sector, or by changes in the efficiency of the materials production as well. The proposed model shows how other-sector productivity changes interact with and mediate the role that energy abundance plays in general prosperity.

Brandt proposes that further work be carried out to further explore how energy resource depletion and declining energy return on investment (EROI) may affect prosperity. In particular, future work could focus on the dynamics of energy sector development and technological change, on the possible substitution of energy resources that would become less productive or become increasingly scarce, or on the prosperity implications of gradual vs. sharp declines in energy returns. Perhaps most importantly, future work should also explore in more details the implications of shifts in material flows and net energy availability associated with gradual transitions from fossil to renewable energy sources.

As Adam Brandt points out, transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards alternative energy sources will indeed be much more than just a substitution of certain energy sources by others. It will amount to a re-engineering of humanity’s basic societal ‘metabolism’, i.e. the set of processes by which human societies – and their various components – ‘exchange’ energy and matter with their biophysical environment and between themselves, and use them in various ways and for various purposes. This has only happened a few times in the past, when early hunting and gathering societies gave way to agricultural societies, and when those in turn were supplanted by industrial societies powered by stored chemical energy in the form of fossil fuels. A full transition to renewable energy would represent a shift of similar magnitude. As this transition gets underway, civil society and policy-makers need appropriate models to make fully informed policy decisions, based on a sophisticated understanding of the underlying systems as well as of the associated constraints and uncertainties.

Biophysical Economics Policy Center



34 Comments on "Is There Such a Thing as a “Net Energy Cliff?”"

  1. Revi on Mon, 8th May 2017 11:53 am 

    We will either do it or die, I think we’ll choose to live. It’s not that hard to figure out how not to.

  2. Cloud9 on Mon, 8th May 2017 12:02 pm 

    When it is no longer profitable to pump oil, the pumping will stop. Profitability for the moment is clouded by conjured money. Japan has shown us that the charade can go on for a very long time. Collapse it will because collapse it must. When it collapses is anybody’s guess.

  3. onlooker on Mon, 8th May 2017 12:28 pm 

    They’re most certainly is. When the energetic/monetary cost of attaining exomatic energy is greater than the energy/money being attained. Then its pretty much game over

  4. Lucifer on Mon, 8th May 2017 2:17 pm 

    Onlooker, that game is nearly over. The human race is in the last few minutes. What happens when it is over? I think that is obvious.

  5. Anonymouse on Mon, 8th May 2017 2:29 pm 

    Not to worry, rockerman will be along any minute now to remind everyone that net energy is a hoax, and how the ‘economy’ runs on uS toilet paper (or dollars if you prefer), and not energy. Got an energy problem? Just print more uS dollars and give them to oil corporations in the form of subsidies. Problem solved.

  6. Hubert on Mon, 8th May 2017 3:13 pm 

    Who much energy is left on this planet?

    Oil Apocalypse: What If the Oil Runs Out?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYb73iiTBEA

  7. onlooker on Mon, 8th May 2017 3:33 pm 

    Lets hope very little for the sake of the climate

  8. rockman on Mon, 8th May 2017 3:45 pm 

    “…net energy is a hoax…”. Net energy is not a hoax. Not only real but critical to economic growth. Fortunately since the oil price dropped so sharply the net energy (and thus the EROEI) of oil development has significantly increased. Since such investments are based upon the potential rate of return the lower the price of oil the more reserves a well needs to target. Granted drill cost have also decline but not as much as the oil price. And since the identical infrastructure (with the same energy consumption per foot of hole) is being used today as when oil was $90+/bbl then it’s taking fewer Btu’s per bbl to bring new reserves to market.

    Of course this same dynamic works in reverse: when oil prices boomed it took fewer bbls discovered to meet the required ROR n
    to justify new investments. Those lower yield oil plays that had been known for years were ignored despite having the tech to develop them. As an example the oil in the Eagle Ford and Bakken were known for decades. And the infrastructure used during the boom existed 10 years before those plays took off.

    Naturally the declining net energy as a result of those higher oil prices eventually had enough negative effects on the global economy to force oil prices back down. And that higher net energy (and elevated EROEI) will persist until the global economy can grow sufficiently to afford higher oil prices.

    This is not a new phenomenon: the same happened with NG about 10 years ago. When NG prices increased 3+ fold the drilling economics allowed less reserves to be developed for the same energy expended. IOW net energy from NG development decreased. But once again when those prices fell 70%+ the net energy (and EROEI) increased enough to allow NG to replace much of global coal consumption. And that switching was also aided by coincidental higher coal prices. Higher coal prices that allowed poorer quality deposites to be developed. IOW coal resource development with a lower net energy.

    Obviously net energy is critical since it has a direct effect (both positive and negative) on the global economy. Fortunately the world has now been allowed a recovery period due to the increase in net energy (and EROEI) of both oil and NG development. How long it lasts remains to be seen.

    So enjoy it for now! LOL.

  9. rockman on Mon, 8th May 2017 4:02 pm 

    Looker – “Lets hope very little for the sake of the climate.” You can hope all you want but it doesn’t change the FACT that there is a sh*t load of fossil fuels left on the planet. LOL. Maybe what you mean is that you hope there’s diminishing financial incentive to develop much of those remaining resources. That will depend upon what you and all the other fossil fuel burners (IOW the consumers) demand in the future. So far y’all seem content to carry on as you have been for about the last 100 years…along with some newbies (China and India) that want to join the club.

    Like I just told Wild Rose: you’re free to hope for whatever optimistic future you care to predict. All it takes is ignoring the well established trends in place.

  10. DerHundistlos on Mon, 8th May 2017 5:09 pm 

    @ Davy / Rockman / Cloggie

    I apologize for not thanking you gentlemen sooner for the excellent information on the feasibility of dams along the Mississippi River.

  11. J-Gav on Mon, 8th May 2017 5:16 pm 

    Rockman said : “Obviously net energy has a direct effect (both positive and negative)on the global economy.” Right on bro! But I don’t quite get the “positive” side of the equation …

  12. Cloggie on Mon, 8th May 2017 5:18 pm 

    You’re welcome.

    One of the largest offshore wind farms in the world has become operational today:

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/gemini-600-mw-wind-park-operational/

    2 more wind parks of 700 MW each will be build by Dong and Shell and operational by 2020.

    3 new 700 MW tenders are to be issued soon and to be completed before 2023.

    After that the sky is the limit with a North Sea that has the potential to generate electricity for 100 million people.

    #DutchWindparkBuilderRubbingTheirHands

  13. onlooker on Mon, 8th May 2017 5:43 pm 

    Rock unfortunately, you are right if they are gettable they will be gotten

  14. twocats on Mon, 8th May 2017 7:20 pm 

    “Net energy is not a hoax” – rockman

    except, let me butcher the definition of net energy so badly as to prove EXACTLY that I believe net energy to be a hoax.

    well done!

  15. dissident on Mon, 8th May 2017 8:42 pm 

    These debates reveal the fantasy detached from reality that is economics. If money is all one needed to get enough energy to matter, then money would override physical laws. Clearly such BS will never occur. Even if I have a trillion dollars to spend to get X barrels of oil out of the ground, that does not imply that no constraints exist on how much energy it will take me to get those barrels over any time frame that is sufficiently short to satisfy the demand. But some would claim that this energy can be gotten cheap somehow.

    When I see solar, wind or biomass burning powered oil extraction, then there will be something to talk about. But we don’t even have nuclear powered oil extraction. We have ***fossil fuel (oil and gas)*** powered oil extraction. This implies a raid attenuation of oil extraction as the energy cost increases since the target resource is being consumed. Consuming one barrel of oil to get one barrel of oil means zero actual extraction regardless of the fiat paper involved.

  16. Jef on Mon, 8th May 2017 9:06 pm 

    “Is There Such a Thing as a “Net Energy Cliff?”

    Yes but we will never get even close to it.

    Cloud9 – WRONG!!! Profit has not been the defining factor for quite some time now. For the whole economy for that matter.

  17. GregT on Tue, 9th May 2017 12:39 am 

    “Cloud9 – WRONG!!! Profit has not been the defining factor for quite some time now. For the whole economy for that matter.”

    Interesting take Jef, would you care to elaborate?

  18. makati1 on Tue, 9th May 2017 1:45 am 

    WE are fast approaching the time when it takes MORE energy to recover a barrel of oil than is in that barrel. Not to mention shipping, refining and distributing the fuel/products. It was about 100:1 in the beginning. Now it averages about 20:1? At what point is there a NET LOSS of energy and a shut down of the wells? Rockman, any thoughts?

  19. Cloggie on Tue, 9th May 2017 3:04 am 

    At what point is there a NET LOSS of energy

    By definition that point is EROI=1.

    This fine piece of consultancy comes at $250,- excluding VAT. 😉

    Royal Society of London claims EROI oil has fallen globally to an average of 17.

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/2006/20130126

    But it is a rear guard fight folks:

    KiteGen wind kites EROI 500:

    http://euanmearns.com/the-eroei-of-high-altitude-wind-power/

    Overview EROI renewables:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8f/PVeff%28rev140225%29a.jpg

    Everything is in the perfectly workable 20-40 range and increasing with advancing technology.

    Wind energy is long accepted as 20 and also increasing with larger towers and offshore with much higher wind speeds. 20 is very conservative as it assumes life spans of 25-30 years where in reality wind towers can have a much longer life span of 100 years or more (Eiffel tower expected life span 3 centuries).

    There is no reason to doubt renewable EROI, just invest and install.

  20. makati1 on Tue, 9th May 2017 4:44 am 

    Keep dreaming Cloggie. Reality is difficult to accept. When FF end, so does all the alts and tech. We old guys may go before the end of FF but our kids and grands will still be around to suffer from our stupidity and waste, maybe.

  21. makati1 on Tue, 9th May 2017 4:45 am 

    BTW: The Eiffel Tower requires a lot of constant maintenance using FF based energy and materials. Not going to happen in the future.

  22. Cloggie on Tue, 9th May 2017 4:57 am 

    When FF end, so does all the alts and tech.

    Why would that be?

    Try to let the meaning of EROI sink in. If wind has an EROI of 20, it simply means that 1kWh input (from fossil or wind) has a return of 20 kWh from wind. It is not rocket science.

    And try to grasp that 1 kWh from wind has the same energetic value as 1 kWh from fossil fuel.

  23. makati1 on Tue, 9th May 2017 5:43 am 

    BUT… ALL sources of energy are NOT equal. I can produce a kilowatt of electric with a generator on my bike, but it takes a lot of energy in the form of calories to do so. You equate wind with actual energy for your use. It takes a thousand steps from the mines to the outlet in your wall. ALL requiring FF. You are stuck in the brainwashed mindset of the techies who want to believe … note the word ‘believe’… that they can save the world, when they are actually destroying it. But, I will not change your mind. So be it.

  24. Davy on Tue, 9th May 2017 6:18 am 

    “@ Davy / Rockman / Cloggie I apologize for not thanking you gentlemen sooner for the excellent information on the feasibility of dams along the Mississippi River.”

    You are welcome Der Hund. Sorry for being a pain in the ass. That is just the way I am.

  25. Cloggie on Tue, 9th May 2017 6:21 am 

    BUT… ALL sources of energy are NOT equal

    Nobody says it is. But a kWh from wind = a kWh from fossil. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I want to dis racism in any way, but in the realm of energy it has no place.

    I can produce a kilowatt of electric with a generator on my bike, but it takes a lot of energy in the form of calories to do so.

    “a lot” is not very scientific, but indeed it will take you 10 hours of cycling to get hour 1 kWh produced.

    You equate wind with actual energy for your use. It takes a thousand steps from the mines to the outlet in your wall.

    Again, “thousand steps” is a useless quantity.

    If EROI of wind is 20, these so-called “thousand steps” of yours are already factored in, in that EROI of 20.

    ALL requiring FF.

    No they don’t. There is not a single step in the production process of the wind turbine, that can’t be done with energy produced by already operational wind turbines. You can use electricity from wind to generate ammonia (NH3) that can be used as fuel. But you can also use electricity to charge batteries that can drive any vehicle, or power any steel production plant. But you and Greg and Davy cannot accept this, as it shatters your collapse world view, around which you have organized your personal lives.

    You are stuck in the brainwashed mindset of the techies who want to believe

    Oops, laymen’s views wants to challenge solid engineering principles. That’s what you get if you absorb the views of amateurs like Heinberg.

    And you put the world “believe” in my mouth, I didn’t use it.

    But, I will not change your mind. So be it.

    More worrisome, I won’t change your mind either, for the reasons stated above.

    Ah well, there are so many roads between the cradle and the grave. A Christian way, a Muslim way, a commie way, a collapsenik way… the number of ways are endless. As long as one doesn’t forget to breath, eat, sh*t and sleep, one can believe anything and get very old with it.

  26. Davy on Tue, 9th May 2017 6:24 am 

    “Rockman said : “Obviously net energy has a direct effect (both positive and negative)on the global economy.” Right on bro! But I don’t quite get the “positive” side of the equation …”

    Jgav, the positive is you have something to eat. That is one of those horrible positives. Your eating is killing you. I fast twice a week for the full day. In about an hour I am going to have breakfast after fasting yesterday. I can tell you that that is one MF’in positive for me in my immediate future.

  27. Davy on Tue, 9th May 2017 6:34 am 

    “After that the sky is the limit with a North Sea that has the potential to generate electricity for 100 million people.”

    Clog, I just had a Swedish Norwegian friend pop in. He lives in Gothenburg. I met him when I studied German in Schwabisch Hall back in 85. He wanted to tour the doomstead and see my permaculture grazing system. One comment he made about the Europe’s renewable energy is how it has change the landscape. One should pause and reflect on this. Where is the beauty in it in the extreme? A cathedral is different and there were only so many. I realize it is good to diversify away from fossil fuels but what are the limits and the consequences? Have you contemplated that? More power for more IPads is not a very good achievement. Maybe we could have less IPads.

  28. Davy on Tue, 9th May 2017 6:49 am 

    “BUT… ALL sources of energy are NOT equal…Nobody says it is. But a kWh from wind = a kWh from fossil.”

    So, clog is a wolf eating an elk the same as wind and the same as fossil fuels? In your theoretical world of techno optimism and fake green you can argue this. Where it breaks down is when you start adding in human nature and economics. When everything is priced and a social narrative guides decisions the ambiguity and agenda of this influences the reality. Don’t blow this fancy simple shit up my ass that all energy is the same. It is not by a long shot.

  29. Cloggie on Tue, 9th May 2017 6:53 am 

    One comment he made about the Europe’s renewable energy is how it has change the landscape.

    I agree with that, to a certain extent. I’m against plastering the entire landscape full with wind towers.

    But we don’t have to:

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/gold-mine-north-sea/

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/ampyx-kite-power/

    And in 100 years or so we can tear these wind turbines and solar panels down and continue with fusion (probably/possibly, not certain).

    More power for more IPads is not a very good achievement.

    5W iPads can be powered with the energy content of a good f*rt.

    Cars and space heating… those are the real energy guzzlers, the rest is noise.

  30. Davy on Tue, 9th May 2017 7:00 am 

    There is certainly an energy cliff and there certainly is a planetary cliff. We are entertaining them both. The issues are far deeper than EROI and “kWh from wind = a kWh from fossil.” The issues are existential and all-inclusive. At that point you approach and are in the vicinity of limits and diminishing returns to a system at thresholds you enter a new domain. Civilization’s functions are entering a zone of turbulence similar to the phase change of water. There is no equation for turbulence. It is further magnified when these thresholds are already forced and brittle. We have pushed the envelope of efficiency and sustainability creating a world on a cliff. If you deny the cliff”s” you are sitting with the hopium hookah. The question should be when and when “when” hits then how much. We have no choice but to negotiate the cliffs we are on. When you ignore the cliffs is when you open yourself up to all kinds of risks beyond the risk at hand. The greatest risk is self-delusion of no cliff.

  31. rockman on Tue, 9th May 2017 10:37 am 

    J-Gav – “But I don’t quite get the “positive” side of the equation” It positive for the global economy to have energy cost declines as we slip into a higher net energy phase. But for the Rockman? Not so much. LOL.

    And I’ll take the opportunity to again point out that a negative net energy dynamic is not automatically a bad thing: electricity production (which the US economy could not exists without) has been a negative net energy operation since the first kWh was produced. We’ve always burned more Btu’s generating electricity the that power produced. But it worked because the value of electricity was greater for society then the fuel sources used to generate it.

  32. rockman on Tue, 9th May 2017 10:43 am 

    DerHundistlos – And thank you for bring the subject up since I knew nothing about it until you stirred my interest. I had no idea it was the largest hydroelectricity producer on the planet at that time.

    One of the reasons I hang around here: to learn that tiny bit of info I’m not already an expert on. LOL.

  33. peakyeast on Tue, 9th May 2017 5:10 pm 

    @Cloggie: No EROI is energy returned on Investment. A Energy to Monetary equation.

    And since money is decoupled from the actual benefit of extracted energy by many steps and factors it is only interesting in a short term financial view.

    EROEI is what you are referring to. How much energy that is extracted using an amount of energy. An physical reality compared to a physical reality. This one is also separated by several steps and many factors, but it is what we all live and die by. This one no one can cheat for long globally when it concerns the large/primary energy production.

  34. Cloggie on Tue, 9th May 2017 5:50 pm 

    All wonderful these discussion about EROI by people whose main claim to fame is that they have read Richard Heinberg.

    Meanwhile back to the real world of solid engineering.lol Few people have an understanding of what is currently happening in the North Sea. That water was once one of the most, if not the most explored areas in the world for oil and gas.

    Today it is the focus of the global wind offshore industry (more than 90%). Even I was surprised to learn that meanwhile more than 40 giant jack-up vessels are operational and constructing one offshore wind park after the other.

    The potential of the North Sea is ca. 100 GW, which means tens of thousands of wind turbines, providing electricity for about 100 million people in NW-Europe:

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/the-giants-of-a-new-energy-age/

    What is under construction here is the equivalent of the Seven Sisters of the oil age, this time no longer dominated by Anglo, but by European companies.

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