The way to determine energy efficiency
If you don’t subscribe to The Week That Was by the Science and Environmental Policy Project, you should. It is a one-stop shop for news and commentary on the environment, with all sane perspectives represented.I have often described alternative energy as inefficient. This calculation quantifies that inefficiency. One of the things I noticed early on about solar was the number of employees required to produce only a fraction of the nation's energy. Those who brag about the jobs created by solar energy are like someone building a canal with shovels rather than large earth moving machinery.
This week’s edition includes these observations on the economic return on energy investment, an important but usually overlooked metric:
... What was important was not the number of people employed in a particular energy sector, but the employment the energy sector created in other economic sectors.
Kelly’s Economic Return on Energy Investment is a measure of the productivity of various energy types. He finds that 9% of the global GDP is tied up in energy, yielding a return of about 11:1. For coal and gas power plants, the return is about 50:1. For nuclear power plants it is about 70:1. The low values of traditional biomass, and other external issues bring the global value down to 11:1.
Applying this analysis to solar photovoltaics, he finds a return of less than 4:1; for wind power, a return of less than 8:1. In brief, there is not much opportunity for solar and wind to lift the third world to modern European standards.