Analytic perspectives on efficiency

In the last post I set out a rough framework for organising various aspects of energy efficiency that impact on the energy costs of the energy that we use. Accessing any energy source requires the use of energy; and only a portion of the overall energy that we use goes directly to the specific service that we desire, such as moving goods or people from one place to another. In some situations—for example, many heating applications—almost all of the supplied energy is converted to directly useful forms, but all energy conversions entail energy costs of some magnitude Continue reading

Introducing efficiency: the energy costs of energy supply and use

In an earlier series of posts (Fueling an industrial world and Energy and the biophysical view of economic activity: from joules to fuels) I pointed out how aggregating energy sources on the basis of their nominal heating values—as is common practice for our most prominent and influential energy information agencies at national and international scale—tends to obscure the dependencies between concrete economic infrastructure and the specific forms that energy sources take in practice. The aggregation process involves taking a highly abstract view of energy sources—a view that highlights only one narrow parameter, at the expense of most of what is important for appreciating how our physical economy functions. One of the most critical areas of omission relates to the energy costs of energy supply and use. Continue reading