Introduction to training

When planning for a sustainable energy supply system, be it on a local, regional or national scale, one has to take three different parts of the system into account:

  • The resource

There are different types of energy resources.

    • One way to describe them is to say that some are limited, such as the fossil and/or nuclear fuels and those that are – from all practical aspects – unlimited.
    • But one can also split them in other categories and today an important aspect is to separate the resources in such that contribute to the global climate change, mainly by releasing fossil CO2 into the atmosphere and those who do not.

For long term sustainability, the preferred energy resources should be unlimited and they should be CO2-neutral.

  • The energy carrier

An energy carrier is typically defined as a commercial product that can be sold to a customer who wants to have energy for a certain purpose.

    • A typical example is gasoline, a commercial product aimed for customers who want to drive.
    • Another example is wood pellets, a commercial product aimed for customers who want to heat their house.

Some energy carriers will be adapted for a specific group of customers, like the two examples mentioned, while other energy carriers such as electricity will have a broader market.

Electricity is the most flexible energy carrier – but it is also the one setting the highest demands on the resource. In such cases when the resource is not the best for electricity production, then the process to make electricity becomes complicated and expensive. So the choice of energy carrier is not free but depends on the resource.

  • The energy service

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the customers will have different needs.

    • While one customer wants electricity for their lamps and to charge their cell-phones,
    • another customer wants gasoline to run the car and
    • the third one desires bottle-gas to run the refrigerator and the cooking stove in their caravan.

The caravan campers – seated in a desolate area enjoying the sunset over a fishing lake – have no use for the high-voltage electricity passing in the grid above their heads…

The system planned must be based on considerations including all three aspects and it must be fit to supply different customers.

There is neither any simple measure to evaluate the pros and cons with different system solutions in a complete way nor to make the useful energy produced from the comparable in a simple and general way.

To make a full comparison, the availability must be taken into consideration, the energy carrier produced must be valued, the flexibility in the system must be evaluated and also the customer perspective must be taken into account; what energy services can finally be provided and what is the local/regional market for that? It is also important to account for the economy of the system and to consider the environmental impact.