Energy 101

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Energy 101 was written by IEA Founding Member, Andrew Hunter


Energy is arguably one of the most important environmental topics of today. Energy is an important environment issue entirely on its own, but it is also either directly or indirectly an extremely important part of almost all other environmental issues and concerns. For example, in urban planning, direct involvement could be the amount of energy required to heat an office building and the type energy source for this task. Indirect involvement could be planning the urban area in which this office building is located so that homes and stores are located nearby, reducing the need for employees to consume energy commuting.

Here are some important ideas in energy today that will give you a basic understanding of energy which is the focus of the IEA.

Non-Renewable Energy Sources

Non-renewable energy sources at those that cannot be produced or at least used on a scale that would sustain their use for generations into the future, and so these energy sources can be completely depleted.

Examples of non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gasses.

Sustainable Energy Sources

Sustainable energy sources have long-term availability that will meet present and future needs. They also replenish on their own and they are energy efficient (we get a lot more energy out than we put into producing it).

Examples include nuclear fusion and burning (clean) household garbage.

Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy sources are those that meet the same requirements as sustainable energy sources, but they have an additional requirement of having a minimal impact on the planet. They do not pollute the environment and ecosystems, and they lessen global warming. So if an energy source is renewable, it is automatically sustainable.

Examples of renewable energy sources are biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, hydrogen, ocean waves and tides, river currentssolar, and wind.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is important when discussing renewable energy since in some cases although a new and interesting energy source that is being researched is sustainable, it may require almost as much energy to produce the sustainable energy as the sustainable source generates. Energy efficiency is not a new term and is used to describe many traditional technologies such as home insulation and car fuel efficiency.

Energy Independence

Energy independence is another energy issue. Most governments would very much like to be energy independent, and not require energy supplies from other nations. For example, the United States would rather it was not dependent on other nations for oil.

Energy Conservation

Energy conservation is especially important when using non-renewable energy sources. Obviously conserving these resources will enable the resources to last longer. Less obvious is the fact that these sources create harmful greenhouse gases and acid rain. Energy conservation can be important for renewable energy sources as well since for example even through hydroelectric power generated from a dam is renewable, building a new dam can cause massive environmental changes upstream.



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