The Energy Issue

OCR As, The Energy Issue


Renewable and Non-renewable sources

Non-renewable (finite) resources are the fossil fuels- they are finite so once they are used the supply remains reduced and will run out

Semi-renewable is things like wood, biofuels and nuclear as they need to be managed to remain renewable

Renewable energy can be used repeatedly, they cause little environmental pollution and includes hydroelectric, wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and wave power

Non-renewable sources domiate the global energy mix

the big gap in energy consumption between rich and poor shows that wealth is the key factor in explaining the gap

the demand for energy has increased over time, increase of over 60% between 1981 and 2006

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Global pattern

availability of fuel types is one of the key factors affecting the wide variation:

  • Oil- relatively common but the Middle East has 50%, Reserves of 1,208,000 million barrels, the chief areas of reserves are the Middle East with 61.5%, the chief user= USA, fastest growing demand= Asia- China 7% a year
  • Coal- major source in Asia pacific at 50%, reserves of over 3 million tonnes, chief areas of reserve are the USA with 27%, the chief user= China, fastest growing demand is Asia- China
  • Natural Gas- major source in Europe and Eurasia, reserves of 181 trillion m3, chief areas of reserves are Middle East 41% and Eurasia 35%, chief user- Russia, fastest growing demand is Europe and Asia
  • Nuclear- rare but Europe has 10%, few reserves built since chernobyl, main reserve of uranium is in Asia, chief user= France, fastest growing demand= India
  • Hydro= major source in South and Central America 28%, limited reserves as best sites used, chief areas of reserve= Asia, chief user= China, Brazil, growing demand is in South America
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Future trends

Global primary energy is expected to increase by at least 50% between 2006 and 2030

  • annual increase of 1.6%
  • more than 70% of this increase will be from developing countries with 30% from china alone
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Physical factors of energy supply

  • Deposits of fossil fuels are only found in a limited number of locations
  • large-scale hydroelectric development requires high precipitation, major-steep sided valleys and impermeable rock
  • large power stations require flat land and geologically stable foundations
  • solar power needs a large number of sat a year with strong sunlight
  • wind power needs high average wind speeds throughout the year
  • tidal power stations require a very large tidal range
  • the availability of biomass varies widely due to climatic conditions
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Economic factors of energy supply

  • the most accessible and lowest cost, deposits of fossil fuels are invariably developed first
  • onshore deposits of oil and gas are usually cheaper to develop than offshore deposits
  • potential hydroelectric sites close to major transport routes and existing electricity transmission corridors are more economical to build than those in very inaccessible locations
  • in poor countries foreign direct investment is often essential for the development of energy resources
  • when energy prices rise significantly companies increase spending on development and exploration
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political factors on energy supply

  • countries wanting to develop nuclear electricity require permission from the International Atomic Energy Agency
  • International agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, can have considerable influence on the energy decisions of individual countries
  • Potential hydroelectric power (HEP) schemes on 'international rivers' may require the agreement of other countries that share that river
  • governments may insist on energy companies producing a certain proportion of their energy from renewable sources
  • legislation regarding emissions from power stations will favour the use for example, of low sulphur coal as opposed to coal with high sulphur conten
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variable energy patterns over time

the use of energy in all countries has changed over time because of a number of factors:

  • Technological development e.g nuclear power
  • Increasing national wealth- average incomes increase, living standards improve and this involves the increasing use of energy
  • Changes in demand
  • Changes in price- relative price of different types of energy can influence demand
  • environmental factors/ public opinion- people are better informed about the environmental imacts of energy sources today compared to the past
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Oil- essential energy source

  • After a fall in demand in the early 1980s to under 60 million barrels daily global demand rose steeply to almost 84 million barrels a day in 2006- largest increase has been in Asia which now accounts for 29.4% of consumption
  • In 2006, the Middle East accounted for 31.2% of production
  • The problem with demand increasing is that it is increasing at a faster than proved reserves
  • The US governments Energy Information Agency predicts that the demand foroil will rise by 54% in the first 1/4 of the 21st century- this amounts to an extra 44 milion barrels a day
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Oil- price increase

price of oil rose from $10 a barrel in 1998 to $65 a barrel in 2005

main reasons for rapid rise in price of oil:

  • increase in demand- high increase in demand from China, India and the USA
  • Insufficient investment in exploration and development
  • problems in the middle east centred on Iraq
  • Major buyers, particularly governments, stocking up on oil to guard against disruptions to supply
  • The impact of hurricanes, particularly on US oil production in Gulf of Mexico
  • Limited US refining capacity due to inadequate investment in recent decades
  • a lack of spare oil production capacity
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Oil- America and China

The USA consumes almost 1/4 of global oil output but only has 2.5% of its proven reserves

The USA's high dependancy on oil leaves it vulnerable to supply shocks and also pushes prices higher for the rest of the world

China alone has accounted for 1/3 of the growth in global demand for oil since 2000, It's average daily consumption of 6.63 million barels is about twice its domestic production

Global peak production- growing concern about when global oil production wil peak and how fast it will decline thereafter

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Coal- the polluter

  • Coal accounts for 50% of US electricity generation and 83% of power plant CO2 emissions
  • China is expected to need 3242 million tons of coal a year by 2025
  • coal is the most polluting source of energy
  • Environmental legislation in a number of countries has required coal-burning power plants to reduce pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide by installing building-size scrubbers and catalytic units
  • Coal gasification at the Wabash River plant in the USA is a process which converts solid coal into a gas that can be used for power generation and the contaminants can be removed
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Natural gas

  • least polluting of all fossil fuels
  • production is dominated by Russia and the USA
  • Middle east now holds the largest reserves
  • relatively low production in middle east is due to limited markets for the product- natural gas which has been brought to the surface was 'flared off' because there were no pipeline networks
  • 'conventional' natural gas is generally found within a few thousand metres or so below the surface has accounted for most of global supply to date
  • however, 'unconventional' deposits contribute more to supply, categories are:
    • deep gas
    • tight gas
    • gas-containing shales
    • coalbed methane
    • geopressurised zones
    • artic and sub-sea hydrates
  • unconventional deposits are more costly to extract
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Nuclear power

Main concerns

  • power accidents which could release radiation
  • radioactive waste storage/ disposal
  • rogue state or terrorist use
  • high construction cost
  • the possible increase of certain types of cancer near nuclear plants

With 103 operating reactors the USA leads the world use of nuclear energy, amounts to 1/4 of worlds total and produces 20% of USA's electricity

serious incidents such as Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania 1979 and Chernobyl disaster 1986 has brought growth in industry to a halt

BIg advantages are-

  • zero emissions of greenhouse gases and reduced reliance on imported fossil fuels
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Nuclear power

China currently produces 6000 megawatts of power from 9 reactors but aim to increase this to 40,000 megawatts

France obtains 78% of its electricity from nuclear power

A few countries have developed fast breeder reactor technologies which are very efficient and greatly increase energy production

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Hydroelectric power

Of the 5 traditional major sources of energy, HEP is the only one which is renewable, however, the best HEP locations are already in use so the scope for more large-scale development is limited, however there is scope for small-scale HEP plants to supply local communities

Problems of HEP

  • huge negative impact on the environment
  • obstruct rivers causing problems for aquatic life
  • may cause deterioration of water quality
  • may cause large areas of land to be flooded
  • may cause the release of significant quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas if large forests are submerged without prior clearance
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Relationship between energy use and economic devel

strong correlation between energy use and economic development

if economy development increases (e.g china) there will be:

  • more 'spare' or disposable wealth to spend on energy consuming products
  • increased demand from industries; especially heavy industries
  • improved transport- increased demand for diesel, petrol etc
  • increased demand from agriculture- mechanisation, chemicals etc
  • expansion of power networks to isolated areas
  • health improvements and empowerment of the poor

If energy production or use increases (e.g. Russia) there will be:

  • increased foreign exchange earnings and foreign investment
  • more employment- direct and indirect
  • improved transport etc
  • higher energy tax earnings to be invested in development schemes etc
  • growth of industries supplying energy industry e.g. construction
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Case Study- UK- energy rich

Current sources- Gas 42%, Coal 18%, Nuclear 8%


  • Oil and Gas from the North Sea but this has fallen by about 30% to around 2 million barrels a day
  • more than 90% of Britain's gas comes from the North Sea, 10% is imported via the European gas network and only 2% comes from Russia- gas imports will rise in the future
    • new techniques are being developed to extract more oil than previously possible from the North Sea
  • Coal has declined and the UK now imports 60% of coal, declined because its the dirtiest most inflexible fossil fuel and most has already been mined
  • 9 of the 12 nuclear power plants are scheduled to close by 2020
  • generates 0.8% of electricity from HEP- there are very few opportunities to increase large-scale HEP but an estimate that if small-scale HEp from all of the streams and rivers in the UK then it would meet 3% of total electricity
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Case Study- UK


  • biomass for both heat and electricity generation accounted for 87% of renewable energy in the UK
  • A small geothermal power plant is in operation in southampton it provides heating and cooling systems for a number of domestic and commercial consumers
  • 2 wave power devices operating in scotland capacity amounting to 1.25MW


  • demand is slowing due to greater efficiency
  • increasingly importing energy (75% now)
  • coal and nuclear will close
  • North Sea oil and gas running out
  • Increasing renewables, especially wind
  • Rising cost of energy
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Case Study-UK


  • Government set a target of 10% from renewable by 2010 e.g. wind farms and river barrages
    • government promotes wind power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
    • Scroby Sands (2005) is located on sand bank 3km off the coast of Great Yarmouth. Its 30 turbines can produce sufficient electricity for 41,000 homes
  • likely to develop new range of nuclear plants 
  • increasing energy efficiency
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Case Study- Mali- LEDC, Energy poor

Mali in West Africa is a huge landlocked and extremely poor country it is threatened by drought and desertification, most people depend on farming, herding or fishing

current sources= firewood


  • no fossil fuel resources so have to be imported increasing the cost
  • In rural areas 80% of energy needs are supplied by firewood and charcoal this uses over 50 million tons of national forest reserves every year
  • less than 12% of the population has access to formal electricity
  • running out of firewood
  • rising energy import bill means less money for development
  • rising cost of energy
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Case Study- Mali- LEDC, Energy poor


  • National Domestic Energy Strategy- focus on renewables especially solar and biofuels 
    • average of 5-6 hours of sunshine a day there is a good solar resource- The Mali Folke Centre has installed solar panels on the roofs of 30 schools
    • the MFC have also helped develop plantations helping areas to close desertification
    • The African Rural Energy Enterprise Development (AREED) is a United Nations programme designed to develop new energy enterprises- one project has involved production of fuel briquettes made from agricultural by-products and these burn for longer and are 25% cheaper than wood-based products
  • improving energy efficiency e.g. stoves
    • encourage greater use of energy efficient stoves which use 4-5 times less wood than traditional stoves
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Reasons for rising energy demand

  • increased standards of living e.g. electrical appliances, cars
  • increased population
  • changing lifestyles e.g. use of computers
  • increased mobility e.g. aviation fuel
  • increased communication e.g phones
  • global warming e.g. air conditioning
  • changing technology e.g. automated manufacturing, farming
  • rapid industrialisation e.g. China
  • relative cost of energy 
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Impacts of increased energy demand

Economic issues and impacts:

  • cost of building new power stations and transmission lines
  • shortage of skilled energy workers however over time the skills base should develop providing employment
  • Rising cost of energy
  • regional inequality based on energy resources
  • export versus import of energy
  • energy is needed to develop
  • as the energy infrastructure expands may encourage development of other industries (multiplier effect)
  • high levels of investment are required

Political issues:

  • energy 'wars'
  • energy colonialism
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Impacts of increased energy demand

social issues and impacts:

  • health problems living near power stations and pylons
  • energy poverty- old and poor at risk
  • can bring considerable social benefits particularly in health and education
  • allows people to communicate

Environmental issues

  • Fossil fuel combustion is a major source of acid rain, smog and global warming
  • pollution from oil spills and pipeline leaks
  • increased demand for firewood can cause deforestation and desertification
  • visual pollution
  • river problems (silting, flooding etc) from dams
  • flooding forested areas for HEP dams results in the release of methane
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Impacts of increased energy demand

Global warming

  • where longwave radiation from the earth is trapped and re-radiated back by greenhouse gases is occuring as energy demand increases
    • carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and CFCs
  • global warming causes:
    • climate change 
    • ice caps melting
    • rise in sea level means more erosion and flooding
    • change in wildlife- extinctions
    • change in agriculture means crops and animals change
    • tourist destinations alter
    • dires more common
    • water shortages
    • increased cost of energy
    • need for air conditioning
    • heat waves and severe winters increase death rate, etc
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Case study- Norway- benefits

4.5 million people so the benefits per person have been considerable

7th largest oil producer and 3rd largest exporter


  • All oil and gas offshore
  • 850 hydroplants generate 99% electricity- installed capacity over 27,000MW


  • Oil and gas account for 33% of export earnings
  • 80,000 people directly employed, 250,000 in indirect oil jobs
  • boosted technological development
  • attracted heavy power using industries e.g. electro chemicals
  • has renewable energy programme
  • caused cumulative causation- process where significant increase in economic growth leads to even more growth as money circulates
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Case study- Norway- benefits


  • oil revenue used to boost welfare system
  • high standard of living
  • high spending in rural areas has reduced rural depopulation
    • revenue from oil and gas has allowed a high per capita spending on sports, youth, transport and general community facilities not just in urban areas but also in smaller more isolated communities which helps to sustain population in the less accessible parts


  • minimal impact due to strict control, inspections etc
  • potential to damage marine ecosystem and fishing industry


  • invested oil revenue abroad- $150 billion, ownership of seabed issues
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Case study- NIgeria- Problems

130 million people

6th largest oil exporter

reserves- in delta and offshore, 159 small oil fields, reserves are being exhausted


  • largest mangrove forest destroyed by pollution, land clearance etc- oil spills and acid rain killed off fish, between 1986 and 2003 more than 50,000 acres of mangroves disappeared
  • flaring of gas causes acid rain
  • tanker movement has increased shore/reef erosion
  • water and air pollution 
  • environmental impact assessments were not compulsory until 1992
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Case study- NIgeria- Problems


  • export 90% of earnings
  • many jobs go to foreigners who are skilled
  • production is dominated by 5 major transnational corporations (TNCs): shell, total, agip, ExxonMobil and chevron
  • no longer self-sufficient in food as focused on oil
  • imports the bulk of its fuel as refineries old/ inefficient
  • increased import of luxury goods


  • little trickling down of wealth
  • over 20 ethnic groups in area- fight over lack of oil wealth
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Case study- NIgeria- Problems


  • corruption siphons off up to 70% of oil revenue
  • nationalised oil industry in 1971
  • little preparation for future
  • rebel groups attack pipelines and kidnap workers
    • in 2006, an armed rebel group known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) intensified attacks on oil platforms and pumping stations
    • a rising tide of violence has affected the country's financial stability and its ability to supply crude oil to the outside world
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Energy Management and conservation

important because of:

  • concerns about the exhaustion of fossil fuels
  • the impact of emissions on the environment
  • the high cost of building large energy installations

Managing energy supply is often about balancing socio-economic and environmental needs

Carbon trading is an important part of the EU's environment and energy policies- heavy industrial plants have to buy permits to emit greenhouse gases 

many countries are looking at increasingly at the concept of community energy- much energy is lost in transmission if the source of supply is a long way away- energy produced locally is much more efficient

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Management challenges

Management challenges include how to balance the economic needs against environmental needs and social needs

sustainability is the ability to carry the system on into the future without a reduction in the system or standard of living

management involves reducing or conserving inputs (e.g. fuel, water, raw materials) and reducing harmful outputs (e.g. pollution) but is also about ensuring the flows in the system are efficient (e.g. transport of energy)

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Management issues

  • what is the exact nature of the fuel and water resources and their status?
  • time- should areas conserve energy resources for the future or should they share them with others? this gives some countries great political influence e.g. Russia or trigger wars
  • sheer cost- short versus long term e.g. damage mining or energy production does to the environment. Who should pay? local versus national issue- rate payer versus tax payer versus energy user
  • who pays versus who gains? should tax payers subsidise developments that benefit a small group e.g. industrialists? the construction of nuclear power stations (e.g.sizewell in suffolk) exemplifies this and the NIMBYism this produces. How effective is the scheme and for whom? what are the benefits and to whom?
  • political will - do authorities, TNCs or central government control systems e.g. wind farms off the north Wales coast? much of this debate requires countries to co-operate (e.g. Kyoto agreement- will this overcome political self-interest?)
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Management issues

  • technology- has the area knowledge and expertise to develop the facilities or does it have to attract TNC investment? is enough known about that particular technology or environment?
  • How long will it take? quick fix versus long term, demand is rapidly rising so developments can't be too long term in realisation e.g. a single power station is much quicker than a multi-purpose river scheme
  • wider impacts. What implications are there for areas beyond the project area? e.g. british coal-fired power stations used to pollute scandinavia with acid rain
  • can energy production ever be sustainable without a vast drop in its output? if not, what do we need to change in our economies/cultures?
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balancing supply with demand

sustainability is about matching supply and demand


  • expand energy production- build new plant, discover new oilfields, etc
  • new technology e.g. nuclear fusion, recover more oil from oil wells
  • diversify energy production- new sources (within the area or from other external suppliers) or new fuels
  • increase renewable  e.g. fast breeder reactor, tidal
  • reduce loss in transfer- better and more efficient grids
  • reduce waste e.g. flaring off gas, use heat produced in the home such as body heat


  • ration energy- raise price e.g. petrol tax, have quotas
  • reduce consumption e.g. insulation, long-life light bulbs
  • make machinery more energy efficient e.g. long-life bulbs, remove 'standby' mode on equipment
  • increase public's awareness of energy use e.g. education, media
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conserving energy

governments can:

  • set a high level of tax on petrol, fuel, oil etc
  • set legal limits on fuel consumption requirements for cars etc
  • subsidise home insulation or energy generation e.g. solar panels
  • encourage recycling (fines, monitor bins, incentives etc)
  • set laws to minimum energy efficiency standards
  • monitor the use of energy in buildings etc
  • congestion charging to deter non-essential car use in city centres
  • promote investment in renewable forms of energy
  • improve public transport to encourage higher levels of usage
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conserving energy

individuals can:

  • walk or cycle rather than drive
  • make more multi-purpose trips
  • use public transport
  • use car pooling
  • use low energy bulbs and equipment
  • improve house insulation- cavity wall, loft insulation
  • not leave appliances on standby
  • buy low fuel consumption/ emission cars
  • wash clothes at lower temperatures
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Alternative sources of energy

The main drawback of the new alternative energy sources is that they invariably produces higher cost electricity than traditional sources. however, the cost gap is narrowing as:

  • alternative energy technology improves
  • traditional electricity supply becomes more expensive
  • governments legislate in favour of alternative energy
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Solar power

can come from:

  • photovoltaic systems- convert sunlight directly into electricity, by the end of 2002, there were 1500MV installed globally, leading country was Japan (627MV)
  • Thermal power plants- global installed capacity at end of 2002 was 364MV most are found in the Mohave desert in Southern California.


  • can be small scale and meet local needs
  • easy to install
  • long life


  • needs high percentage of sun days and currently produce low output
  • can corrode in acid rain etc
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Wind power

at the end of 2004 global wind-generated energy capacity totalled 47300MV, Germany generated the largest percentage of this figure


  • can be small scale and meet local needs
  • ever increasing in efficiency


  • relatively inefficient
  • eyesore- often on highland
  • noise
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= organic matter from which energy can be produced, direct domestic use of biomass such as burning firewood is a large source in developing countries, the use of ethanol distilled from sugar cane is popular in Brazil. The use of biodiesel is popular in Germany


  • can use agricultural waste
  • anyone can grow it
  • low-level technology so cheap to use


  • take over land used for food crops causing famine
  • can cost more energy to grow and harvest the crop
  • vulnerable to climate, pests etc
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Geothermal power

energy from the natural heat found in the earth's crust in the form of steam, hot water and hot rock, can be used to produce electricity or hot water can be used directly for industry, agriculture, bathing and cleansing. operate on steam resources. By 2005 global geothermal electricity had reached 8900MV, US is world leader.


  • very cheap and 100% natural
  • long life
  • not controlled by weather


  • needs heat source near the surface
  • often in tectonically active areas
  • salts, etc can build up and block pipes etc
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Tidal power

2 possible ways of exploiting tidal energy

  • building barrages across estuaries and bays with a large tidal range
  • harnessing local tidal currents with moveable, non permanent structures
  • first tidal barrage opened in France at La Rance in Brittany in 1966 and has a capacity of 240KW


  • not controlled by weather
  • minimal running costs once built
  • multi purpose schemes


  • needs a large tidal range
  • may damage estuarine ecosystem and can cause silting and disrupt wildlife
  • very expensive to build
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Case Study- Germany

  • 5th largest energy consumer
  • oil (36%) gas (23%) and coal (24%) but only has coal reserves
  • renewables 5% in 2006
  • hydro 5%- in pre Alps area
  • Renewable Energy Sources Act set minimum price guarantee for 20 years and tax concessions
  • has 52% of world's solar panels- including one site of 62 acres
  • in 2007, had over 18,000 wind turbines- flat North German plain and now offshore
    • 5.7% of its electricity from wind
    • employs 64,000 people in the process
  • investing in bioenergy from crops in North Germany
  • sees renewables as an important industrial sector for the future
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Case study- Multi-purpose river scheme- Kainji dam

  • built 1964-68- major symbol of independence
  • the dam is one of the longest dams (10kms) in the world- cost £209m
  • produces 800MV from 10 turbines
  • Supplies electricity for all the large Nigerian cities and some its exported to Niger
  • Saves using oil which can be exported
  • created a 135km long, 30km wide lade, which is used as a reservoir and by the fishing industry
  • water can be used to irrigate crops creating cash/commercial farming
  • created nigeria's first national park in 1976 around the lake
  • development of tourism at north-west end of the lake
  • new crossing point via dam of niger
  • ship lock and lake has improved navigation on the seasonal river
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Case study-Kainji dam on the Niger in Nigeria

there are risks of becoming so dependant on 1 scheme:

  • lack of maintenance so much of the equipment is  now obsolete
  • silting (and high evaporation) is reducing the lake's capacity
  • fishermen have overfished the lake
  • flood in 1998 has shifted the dam slightly so threatening it
  • should the dam burst, millions would die downstream and Nigeria would lose its energy supply
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