Considerations When Choosing Different Energy Sources In The Future (Social, Environmental, Economic, Practical & More)

Considerations When Choosing Different Energy Sources In The Future (Social, Environmental, Economic, Practical & More)

Every energy sources has it’s different pros and cons.

Along with with those pros and cons, cities and countries in the future have to weigh up different considerations when deciding to what extent they will make an energy source part of their overall energy mix.

In this guide, we list some of those considerations – social, environmental, economic, practical, and so on.

*Note – these are some of only many considerations individuals, cities, countries and businesses might make. Also note – some energy sources are going to be better for specific applications (electricity vs vehicle energy for example) than others.


Considerations When Choosing Different Energy Sources In The Future For Cities & Countries

  • Is fuel renewable or finite?

Solar and wind for example are renewable sources of energy (that come from the sun and wind patterns), whereas fossil fuels are found in the ground and tend to be finite in supply.


  • If finite – how many years of supplies are left in the ground or elsewhere?

Different fossil fuels have different supply quantities left.

Uranium for nuclear energy is also finite – although, technology and scientific advances in the future could change that.


  • Are there operational emissions or air pollution?

Some energy sources emit greenhouse gases or air contaminants during burning and operation, whilst others are clean.


  • Are there emissions in the manufacture of the infrastructure and equipment?

Even though solar and wind are clean in operation, there is still a carbon footprint to manufacture solar panels, wind towers etc.


  • Is there any waste when it comes to spent fuel of the energy source?

Nuclear has waste when the fuel is spent. Clean energy like solar doesn’t have waste.


  • Variability of the energy source

Solar and wind energy for example can be more variable than other energy sources as the sun isn’t always shining, and wind isn’t always blowing.

This is in comparison to say a coal plant where as long as there is coal to burn, energy will be produced. So, coal can be said to have less variability than the above two energy sources.


  • What is the power production density, or energy per unit output like?

Nuclear has great energy density of power per unit energy production compared to solar and wind energy.


  • Set up costs

The cost to set up energy generation equipment and infrastructure.


  • Running costs

The cost to operate a power plant or power generation equipment.


  • Maintenance – how easy is it to maintain, and how much does it cost

Offshore wave energy farms for example could be difficult and costly to maintain.

Whereas, solar for example usually only requires cleaning of the panel a few times a year.


  • Does it require re-fuelling?

Coal for example requires re-fuelling, whilst something like solar or wind doesn’t.


  • How long does it take to build or install (months or years)?

Coal and nuclear power plants for example can take 6-8 years to full build.

On the other hand, smaller solar setups can be installed in a day or a few days.


  • Can building be staged or is it an all in one construction?

Coal and nuclear power plants need to be built all in the one project.

With wind farms or solar farms for example – you can choose exactly how many wind towers or solar panels you’ll set up, and add to that if required. Building/installation can essentially be staged depending on your timeline and budget.


  • Decommissioning costs

Some power plants are very expensive to decommission and de-construct, where as a solar set up might be much easier.


  • What is the lifetime of the power plant or power equipment?

Some power plants and energy infrastructure last much longer over their lifetime compared to others.


  • Can private companies invest in the technology and make their money back on it?

Private public, or fully private partnerships can be a positive for energy and power projects as they open up more sources of funding. 

The more profitable energy is, the more potential funding there might be available, and the cheaper and more accessible power can become.


  • Is there any hazardous waste produced by the power plant

Nuclear power produces hazardous or radioactive waste that needs to be managed and disposed of in a special way – this can be expensive.


  • How safe is the energy source whilst in use

Nuclear energy for example has had a few nuclear reactor accidents in the last few decades.


  • Costs for the consumer – what are energy prices like?

Some energy sources are more expensive than others for consumers due to various factors.


  • How many jobs does the energy source create?

Some energy sources create more jobs than others. If an energy source doesn’t create jobs – can it help contribute to society and the economy in other ways?


  • Potential for small scale energy supply and production

Some energy sources are great for small scale energy production on a household or individual level, whilst others are not


  • Potential for medium to large scale energy supply and production

Some energy sources are great for large scale energy production for whole towns or large cities, whilst others are not


  • Potential for remote or rural area energy supply

Wind and solar for example can be use in remote or rural areas fairly easily – as long as there is wind and sun there. Other energy sources can face logistical challenges in isolated or rural places


  • How much more can research and funding continue to advance technology and capabilities/capacity in a positive way?

Some energy sources have a lot more potential and capability once technology develops more or the energy source can be utilised in different ways. Nuclear is one example of this with different nuclear energy generation techniques still to be researched, and different sources of uranium still to be explored.


  • Can it supply energy off the grid?

Solar is an example of an energy source that can supply energy off the grid.

Solar has the ability to feed energy into a power grid, or, it can store energy in batteries for later usage.


  • Can it give energy independence to individuals?

Solar is an example of an energy source that can give energy independence to individuals by allowing them to go off the main electricity grid.


  • Is it portable?

Solar is an example of a portable energy source. You can get large solar panels that are permanently installed, or small solar panels you can take hiking or camping that are portable.


  • How does it look aesthetically?

Wind farms are sometimes blamed for being ugly and unsightly aesthetically.


  • Does it make noise?

Wind farms are sometimes blamed for being noisy while in use


  • Does it impact the environment, wildlife or local populations in a negative way whilst in operation?

Wind farms for example can be blamed for hindering flying wildlife. Coal power plants indirectly cause air pollution which can impact the environment. Onshore and offshore wave and tidal energy equipment can hinder marine wild life. Hydroelectric dams can impact aquatic species.


  • Is there any mining, or other fuel source processes that can damage the environment and local communities

Mining for fossil fuels can have extensive negative impact on the environment, wildlife and local communities.

Refining and processing petroleum can use water and other important resources.


  • How can an individual or city practically incorporate, implement or transition to this energy source in the short and long term (China’s transition to natural gas and renewables)

China is an example of a country that faces large challenges in transitioning from coal as their main primary energy source, to natural gas, nuclear and renewables.


  • Will the government subsidise it

Governments subsidise some energy sources more than others. China is an example of a country that currently subsidizes coal to an extent.


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