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Sustainability Matters 10: How can we break down Energy Services?


How can we break down Energy Services?

Let’s get back to the question at hand, “How much energy do we use?” 

If we’re asking to see if we can replace it with sustainable sources, then this is the information we are really looking for: How much energy does it take to provide the services humans need?

Most people have little allegiance to the specific fuel they use. I really don’t care what brand of gasoline I put in my car, but I’ll drive out of my way to save a few cents per gallon. The recent glut of natural gas has driven gas prices down and encouraged energy consumers from all sectors to change fuels from oil to natural gas.  My lights and computer run equally well on electrons from the electrical grid or energy generated from solar panels on my roof. 

As I type this, I don’t know where the electrons flowing through my computer are generated and I don’t care. 

No matter what their source, they provide the same service to me, which is what I really care about. I also care that the photovoltaic panels on my roof decrease my monthly electric bill from $150 to $30! 

Consumers want useful energy when and where they need it to perform specific tasks at the lowest possible price. 

From the primary source to final energy, gasoline, natural gas and electricity provide us with energy services for manufacturing and transportation. Each energy service has its own unique energy transition pathway, starting with primary energy that is transformed and transported to where we want the final useable energy product to do our bidding. It is at this point that we measure the final and perhaps the most important form of energy, Useful (Useable) Energy.

Here is a chart of Grubler’s estimates of where the world’s energy went in 2005. 

Energy service  Final energy 

As percentage of total final energy 

Useful energy 

As percentage of total useful energy 





Road  66.9 




Rail  2.3 




Shipping  9.0 




Pipelines  2.9 




Air  10.3




Total transport  91.4 




Iron and steel  14.4 




Non-ferrous metals  4.0




Non-metallic minerals  11.1 




Other  58.7 




Total industry  88.2




Other sectors 
Feedstocks  30.2 




Agriculture, forestry, fishery  7.5 




Residential  81.0




Commercial and other  31.4 




Total other sectors  150.1 




Grand Total  329.7 





Figure 3-13 (Grubler Source??)

Industry demanded the largest amount of useful energy at 62 EJ – the largest share of which goes to high temperature, industrial heat processes. Approximately 57 EJ of useful energy was expended by the residential and commercial sectors – the bulk of which is associated with conditioning of buildings.  Agriculture, fisheries and forestry accounted for 3 EJ of useful energy.  

Of these three sectors demanding useful energy, transport was the smallest category at approximately 22 EJ (13% of useful energy). 

The dominant mode of transportation in the world today remains the internal combustion engine, which is notoriously inefficient.  Because of this inefficiency, it took 28% of our primary energy to supply just 13% of our useful energy to meet our 2005 transportation needs.

If we think of Figure 3-13 above as a snapshot of the current demand for final and useful energy, then the following chart can be thought of as a time lapse view of useful energy consumption from 1900 through 2010. 

In that time, particularly since 1950, our demand for useful energy has grown exponentially. 

Figure 3-14

What are some Differences in Energy Usage?

The world shows great disparities in energy consumption patterns.

For example, the average distance driven by 6.5 billion people is a statistic with little practical use.  A significant percentage of the world’s population has no cars or access to public transport, while each person in my family has a car and drives far more than the world average.  

Using 2005 data, Grubler and his colleagues approached this issue by dividing the world up into regions according to average income and compared the energy consumption of these groups.  The following map (Figure 3-15) defines his groupings.

Figure 3-15 Chart Primary Source: Grubler ; Definition of GEA world regions used.  For country listings and finer resolution regional definitions see GEA Technical Guidelines Annex-II.

The bulk of the world’s energy is consumed by the industrialized nations (OECD90), as shown in Figure 3-16 below.

Figure 3-16 Primary Source: Grubler.   Per capita useful energy (GJ) per major energy end use and by major region in 2005, based on estimates of Grubler et al., 2012. Regions are sorted from left to right by their respective per capita income (GDP) levels (in $2005 expressed at PPP). 

The chart reinforces the relationship between energy consumption and stages of societal development discussed in Chapter 1 (See Figure 1-2: Estimated Daily Consumption of Energy per Capita at Selected Historical Points).

The United States used the most energy of the industrialized nations in 2012.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the US represented 4% of the world’s population and used 18% of the primary energy consumed in 2012.  This isn’t just some random fact, its implications are extremely important.  First,  it represents energy use of the most technically advanced country in the history of the world.  It also represents an important key to our foreign policy since World War II, and where our quest for energy has led us.

With 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.  To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming.  We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights the raising of the living standards and democratization.  We’re going to have to deal in straight power concepts.  The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better. “

George Cannon
Cold War Strategist, 1948

As the above hints at, the amount of energy consumed is not the only factor that varies among economic regions. Look closely at the following chart, and you’ll see that the types of primary and final energy consumed vary by region, as well as the services useful energy provides. 

For example, Asia used a much higher percentage of its useful energy for industry than the industrialized (OECD90) nations. 

Conversely, industrialized nations tended to use a higher percentage of their energy for residential and commercial purposes. This reflects the world’s changing economic landscape, which has seen much of the industry formerly performed in the US and other OECD90 nations move to Asia.

Figure 3-17: 

In his Energy Primer, Amulf Grubler found an interesting way to analyze energy use patterns.

He looked at historical numbers for total energy used by different countries in relationship to a measure of that country’s wealth. He measured wealth by dividing the population of a country by its national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

GDP/Population = Average Wealth

These calculations show unique patterns in the relationship between wealth and energy use over the course of time.

Population/GDP = average wealth

In order for that number to have meaning we need to compare it with other countries. Two measures were used to compare GDPs of different nations.  The first Market Exchange Rate (MER) is based on the conversion of one currency to another, not unlike what you might do if you traveled to Europe and exchanged dollars for euros.  The second method, called Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), is based “on relative prices for representative baskets of goods and services across countries….”  In other words, how much money did this set of services cost in a specific country at a specific time.  

Using this information, Professor Grubler found a specific country’s wealth by dividing the GDP by its population.

Gross Domestic Product/Population   =   Average $/Person 

When plotted against the amount of primary energy that country used, Grubler described the relationship between average individual wealth and that country’s energy consumption. 

The results shown in Figure 3-18 below reveal very different patterns of energy consumption among countries.

Figure 3-18

Figure 3-18:  Primary energy use (GJ) versus GDP (at market exchange rates (MER) in 2005US$) per capita. Source: USA, Japan: updated from Grubler, 1998, UK: Fouquet, 2008, India and China: IEA (2010) and World Bank (2010). Note: Data are for the United States (1800–2008), United Kingdom (primary and final energy, 1800–2008), Japan (1922–2008), China (1950–2008), and India (1950– 2008). For China and India, also GDP at purchasing power parities (PPP, in 2005 International$) are shown.

Grubler’s findings confirm the correlation between economic development and energy consumption, but the correlation is not as direct and simple as the Figure 3-18 and Figure 1-2 might suggest.  

Next week we’ll look into exactly how much energy the U.S. and the rest of the world used in the past several years.

What was your takeaway from this week’s blog?

Campton Farmhouse

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