The way to determine energy efficiency

Power Line:
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.

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.
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.


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