Chapter 6 - Energy Sustainability

Part 2 - Electricity Generation

gas turbineElectricity is a secondary power source, and its generation from primary sources creates environmental issues. The type and extent of these issues depends on the primary source and the technology used to generate the electricity. The generation of electricity using steam creates issues with wasted heat, and water use, and is not as efficient as some of the newer technologies integrating highly efficient combined cycle turbines and cogeneration. The use of gas turbines is more efficient and cost effective, however the dependence on a fossil fuel remains a climate change concern in the absence of carbon capture or sequestration. Many of the newer technologies, especially those that concentrate on the use of renewable resources and engineering gains to reduce fuel consumption, show promise. The advancement of alternative strategies to produce electricity, mainly wind and solar have shown increasing cost competitiveness while presenting an alternate, more sustainable, energy pathway.

There is hope in our energy future, driven by new technologies and the efficiency gains from advancement in science and engineering. Our present and growing electrical energy use need not be a prominent factor in compromising our environmental future. In the words of Bertolt Brecht, the twentieth century German writer, “Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.” 

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Suggested Reading

  1. Electricity in the US. US Energy Information Admininstration, USDOE
  2. Electricity (2012). US Energy Information Admininstration, USDOE
  3. Closing and Decommissioning Nuclear Power Reactors (2012) Chapter 3, UNEP Year Book 2012.


(Image source: Siemens AG)