Analysis of Global Electricity Generation

7496 words (30 pages) Essay in Geography

18/05/20 Geography Reference this

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Energy is a vital component of economic, infrastructural development in any country. It is regarded as the primary input required to sustain an economy. Globally, countries with efficient and reliable sources of energy are more advanced in per capita consumption; thus, their economies are growing faster, BGR (2014). On the other hand, countries with non-reliable and non-efficient energy sources are lagging in per capita consumption and, consequently, economic development.

There are two different resources of electric power:

  1. Conventional Resources: These resources are also known as non-renewable resources because they are available in limited quantities.
  2. Non-conventional Resources: These refer to natural resources that are pollution-free and can be used to produce clean electricity without wastage. They include solar, wind, hydro biomass, and geothermal.

The graph below shows the global electricity generation by source. This graph reveals that fossil-based natural energy sources (conventional) are the most prevalent in energy production as compared to renewable sources whose consumption is marginal.

World Electricity Production by Source 2019

I. Conventional Resources

A- Coal

History of Coal

Coal is the most abundant fuel among the conventional/ fossil resources and has the longest and indeed the most varied history. It has been used for heating since the pre-historic period of the caveman. Archeological evidence shows that the Romans in England used Coal during the third century, 100-200AD. The heating potential of coal was discovered in 1700. In the United States, Coal was found by explorers in 1673, NEED (2018).

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The industrial revolution played a significant role in expanding the use of coal. A man by the name James Watt invented the first steam engine that used coal in the 1800s. This was followed by the invention of steam-powered ships and rails that relied on coal for power. Weapon factories started to use coal to manufacture weapons used during the civil war. Coal was also used in the manufacturing of steal by 1875, NEED (2018). The burning of coal for electricity generation is relatively new in the long history of fuel. It was first used in the 1880s to generate electricity for home and factory consumption. It officially became the primary fuel used to generate electricity in the U.S. in 1961. Today coal is widely used to generate electricity in the U.S. 

Converting Coal into Electricity

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (2019), 90% of coal mined in the USA is used to generate electricity. Up to 50% of the electricity consumed in the USA is generated from coal. Coal generated electricity is the electric power made from the energy stored in coal. Most of Coal energy is derived from carbon produced from the ancient plant material, released as coal is burned.

The diagram below shows an outlay of a coal plant and the steps taken to generate electricity from coal.

Source: (2019)

The process of generating electricity from coal is seven steps and like that used to convert natural gas and oil into electricity, US Department of Energy (2019):

STEP I: A machine, pulverizer, is used to grind coal into the finest powder.

STEP II: The coal powder is mixed with hot air for it to burn efficiently. The mixture is moved into the furnace.

STEP III: The burning coal is used to heat water in a boiler to create steam.

STEP IV: The steam released from the boiler is used to spin turbines. This transforms the heat energy from the burning coal into mechanical energy that spins the turbines.

STEP V: The spinning turbine powers a generator to turn the mechanical energy into electric energy.

 STEP VI: A condenser is used to cool the steam moving through the turbine then turns back into the water.

STEP VII: The water is returned into the boiler and the cycle begins.

Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around Coal

Coal is a globe’s major source of energy. The aggregate global consumption currently stands at 7,700 Mt which is shared with other sectors such as iron, cement and liquid fuel manufacturing. It accounts for 40 percent of the world’s electricity consumption. This is projected to increase significantly over the next 30 years. World Energy Council, WEC (2016) regard Coal as the world’s second most important source of electric energy. Accounting for30% of the globe’s primary power consumption, hard and brown (lignite) types of coal are the leading sources of electricity generation that produces the 40% global electricity, WEC (2019).

Coal is considered as an indigenous source of energy. This means that coal mined within a country are used for the generation of electric power within the same country to ensure the security of supply. However, the overshot in the supply and fluctuation of natural gas prices has negatively impacted the coal industry.

75 % of the total global production of coal leverages subcritical technology. According to NEED (2018), this technology achieves a high level of efficiency in electricity production. This is because it consumes less coal while resulting in reduced emission of carbon dioxide (CO2).  They add that CO2 emission may be reduced by around 23% per unit generated of electricity, replacing the current ultra-supercritical technology, IEA (2018).

Besides improved efficiency in power production, the implementation of a new technology referred to as Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) is one of the strategies being used in power generation plants to reduce carbon emission and climate change. The global consumption of Coal increased by 64% between 2000 to 2014, making it the fastest-growing fuel in use.

Strengths of Coal in Electricity Generation

  1. It is available in abundant supply; it is estimated that the U.S. has enough Coal to last over 400 years.
  2. Coal has a high load factor; it has potential for continuous power.
  3. It offers low capital investment.
  4. The new technologies such as carbon capture and storage can reduce potential emissions.
  5. Coal can be converted into gases or liquid but still be used as if it were raw.
  6. Coal can be used with renewable sources, such as incorporating biomass.
  7. It is a full-time source of electricity.

Weaknesses of Coal in Electricity Generation

  1. It is not a renewable resource thus the reserves will be depleted at some point.
  2. It contains a high level of carbon dioxide per Thermal Unit that pollutes the environment.
  3. Electricity generation from coal can create a high level of radiation.
  4. Coal plant emissions are linked to health concerns.
  5. Coal mining causes relocation of populations and disruption of normal lives.

B- Natural Gas

History of natural Gas

Natural gas was first discovered in America in 1626 by French explorers who found the native people were igniting gasses around Lake Erie, NEED (2018). The first well was dug in 1659 by Colonel Edwin Drake who found oil and natural gas 69 feet below the surface.

The first commercial use of natural gas occurred in England in 1785. Baltimore, Maryland, was the first city in the U.S. to produce power from natural gas to generate electricity, illuminating their homes. Robert Bunsen pioneered the use of natural gas in heating.

The first electricity generated from natural gas was in 1939 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. In North America, a power plant in Port Mann, British Columbia launched the first 100MW natural gas-powered power plant, NEED (2018). Since then, generative capacity of electricity from natural gas has grown exponentially.

How Electricity is generated from Natural GAS, NEED (2018)

The process of generating electricity from natural gas starts by transporting the natural gas underground to power plants through pipes. The power plant then burns the natural gas to boil water that becomes steam. The steam is used to spin the blades of a turbine connected to a generator. The generator spins the magnets that in turn generate the electricity. The power generated passes through the power plants to power stations then to the final consumers.

This process is less like the process used in generating electricity from other fossil sources such as coal and oil. The diagram below demonstrates the process of electricity generation from natural gasses.


Strengths of Natural Gas

  • Natural gas is more environmentally friendly compared to the other fossil fuels as it burns cleaner.
  • It’s safer and easier to store in comparison to oil and coal.
  • Natural gas is less expensive than other fossil fuels.
  • The supply of natural gas is plentiful hence it can be relied upon in the long run.

Weaknesses of Natural Gas

  • Natural gas is combustible hence must be handled with care.
  • Natural gas is non-renewable.
  •  Changing Prices continuously.

Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around Natural Gas

Natural gas is argued to be the only fossil based electric power source whose consumption is set to grow and help the world to transition to clean and affordable power. It is the second source of energy in generation of power, accounting for 22%, IEA (2018).  There have been advances in technology that has led to affordability and efficiency in the supply of natural gas.

However, the demand of natural gas in the future is uncertain. This can be reversed by formulating new policies and expanding the existing infrastructure and bridging the regulatory gaps both at the national and international levels through regional economic blocks.

Moving into the future, there will be a decline in the demand for natural gas imported from Asia. This will be prompted by the need for importing nations such as the USA, China and Japan, which are major industrialized countries to reduce the impact of unstable commodity market in order to stabilize prices. The volatility of the Gulf region where the bulk of the natural gas is imported from is such that the prices will remain unpredictable.

One of the most significant technological milestones in the exploitation of natural gas is the development on how unconventional gas resources are drilled. There have been significant changes in the upstream operations, leading to an improvement in supply.

Here has been a fall in demand for natural gas in the Asian market and an increase in supply in the Asian and North American markets, leading to oversupply of the product in the global market. This has significantly led to decline in prices.

One of the objectives of United Nations Climate Change Conference (2015), COP21 is to reduce the consumption of carbon intensive fuels in electric power generation in the fast-growing economies. This means that natural gas will play a displacing role in helping to achieve this objective.


C- Oil

History of Oil

Oil was first discovered by the Chinese in 600 B.C and transported in pipelines made of bamboo, NEED (2018). However, the new oil economy was heralded by Colonel Drake and in 1859 in Pennsylvania. Oil was also discovered in Spindletop, Texas in 1901.

The modern history of oil begun in the 19th century when paraffin was fast refined from crude oil by British Chemist James Young in 1847. With the technological advancements in the 20th century, oil became the most preferred source of energy. This was driven by the need to use oil in generating electricity and for transportation.

Generating Electricity from Oil

Like the other fossil sources, oil is mined from the underground reservoirs. The liquid oil is the product that is transported through pipes to the refineries. From there, oil is refined into several products namely: gasoline, diesel, kerosene, liquefied petroleum and other residuals such as bitumen. Three different technologies are used to convert oil into electricity:

  1. Conventional Steam: like in the case of coal and natural gas, the oil is burned. It heats the water that forms steam that in turn generates electricity.         
  2. Combined cycle technology: This involve burning oil in a combustion turbine then using the heated exhaust gasses to generate power. They are used for heating water to create steam for generating electricity.
  3.  Combustion Turbine: this entails burning oil under pressure to produce hot exhaust gasses which are used to spin turbines to produce electricity.

 The following diagram shows a typical thermal power station using oil to produce electricity:


Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around Nuclear Energy

Oil is the leading source of energy in the world accounting for around 33% of the total global consumption. At a time when there is concern about the continuous exploitation of oil for fuel and production of electricity, several structural changes have been initiated within the industry. Traditionally, the gulf region under the OPEC group has been known to be the major source of oil. However, other countries outside OPEC are also emerging as oil producers. Power generators are adopting more efficient power generation options.

Despite Of the industry being characterised by price fluctuations, the prospects of the industry remain strong. However, the political instability in the gulf region and the recent destruction of oil wells in Saudi Arabia by the suspected Iran forces raised concern about the prospects of the industry.

Strengths of Oil

  1. Oil is available in abundance.
  2. Oil is easy to transport and use.
  3. Oil has high heating value.

Weaknesses of Oil

  1. Oil is a non-renewable resource.
  2. Burning oil leads to carbon emission.
  3. The mining process is not efficient hence leading to waste that endangers the environment.
  4. Transportation leads to spill, risking aquatic life.
  5. Oil is highly combustible.

D- Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power can be described as the use of different nuclear technologies to extract electric power from atomic nuclei through controlled nuclear reactions. It is one of the fastest sources of electricity generation. The advancement of nuclear power is concentrated in a few countries notably: China, Korea, India and Russia. They together own 40 out of the total 65 that were under construction reactors according to data from IAEA. The global capacity stood at 2563 TWh as at 2018, IEA (2018). This generated 10% of the global electricity needs. Currently, there are a total of 450 nuclear power reactors globally.

History of Nuclear Energy

The diagram below shows the chronology of nuclear energy from 1942:


The graph below shows the trajectory of global nuclear electricity production from 1970 to 2018.  It indicates the increasing significance of nuclear energy in the electric power matrix.

How Nuclear Energy is generated (World Energy Report, 2015)

Nuclear energy facilities utilise technology referred to as nuclear fission. In this process, heavy atomic nuclei split apart to form lighter ones, releasing energy at the same time, NEED (2018). Certain isotopes (most notably uraium-235, which is naturally occurring) are fissile, which means that they can be made to undergo fission when bombarded with neutrons. The fission process also produces neutrons, so that a chain reaction can be set up wherein each fission event can initiate another. Nuclear reactors then are designed to maintain this chain reaction in a controlled manner. Fission takes place in the nuclear fuel while the rest of the reactor is designed to convert the thermal energy produced into electricity and to make sure that none of the radioactive material created during the process is released into the environment. Nuclear power plants are thermal plants, like gas or coal. They heat water to steam to turn turbines. In the case of medical and research reactors, some of the radioactive isotopes created via fission are the product of interest. These can be used for medical and industrial purposes.

The diagram below shows a typical layout on a nuclear energy plant:


Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around Nuclear Energy

Fuel takes a small proportion of the total generation cost of nuclear electricity thus it is favoured as an electricity supply option in many countries. The cost of uranium in electricity generation accounts for only 10% thus the nuclear electricity generators are cushioned against price volatility like in the case of natural gas and oil-based power generation, IEA (2018).

The introduction of Generation IV nuclear reactors is promising as it will eliminate limitations on fuel supply in the future. Another technology that has been introduced is nuclear desalination. This technology is considered a viable option that can meet the growing demand for portable water, especially in desert areas where there is limited supply of water.

It is projected that fast reactors will be deployed by 2035 in many countries as they have been used in Russia. This coupled with the success of Generation IV will make immense contribution in expanding the capacity of nuclear generated electricity.

In comparison in terms of generation capacity, nuclear power plants are not affected by high cycle fatigue, as compared to fossil-based plants or in non-conventional plants such as wind powered plants whose thermal parameters are limited. Spare parts are also available to repaid aging plants.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Nuclear Energy



  1. It produces no polluting gases.
  1. Waste is radioactive and safe disposal is expensive and challenging.
  1. Nuclear stations do not lead to emission of gasses that lead to global warming.
  1. Waste from thermal pollution chocks and affect marine animals. 
  1. Fuel costs are low.
  1. Can cause catastrophic large-scale accidents.
  1. High technology research required.
  1. p High cost of building and safely decommissioning.


II. Non-Conventional Resources

A-    Hydro-Power

History of Hydro-power

The first hydroelectric power project took place in 1878 in Northumberland, England, IRENA (2018). The electricity produced in this project only powered one lamp, in 1882; the first hydroelectric project for mass distribution was formed in Appleton Wisconsin, American. The electricity produced was distributed to private homes and light industries. By1892, several hydropower stations were launched in the USA. By the turn of the new century, it has come to be recognized as an important source of electricity at a global scale.

How Hydroelectric Power is generated

Hydropower involves using water to power turbines to make electricity. Water is constantly moved through a huge global cycle. It uses water as fuel that is neither used nor reduced in the process as the water cycle is endless. There are several hydroelectric facilities that are powered by Kinetic energy of flowing water moving downstream. Turbines and generators are used to convert the energy into electricity which in turn is fed into the grid.

The following is an outlay of a hydroelectric power station


There are three types of hydroelectric power plants:

  • Impoundment facility: this is a large hydropower system that uses a dam to store water in a reservoir. The water released flow through a turbine, spinning it and in turn powers a generator that produces electricity. The water can be released or maintained in the reservoir.
  • Diversion Facility: this facility channels a portion of a river through a canal thus not requiring the use of a dam.
  • Pumped Storage Facility: this works like a battery. It pumps water uphill through a reservoir at a high elevation from a second reservoir at low elevation. The water is then released during dry seasons and used to generate electricity.

 Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around Hydroelectricity

Hydropower is now the largest source of renewable energy in the world that has been on increase in the past 5 decades. Currently, there have been limited developments in hydropower development because of the high initial fixed development required.  The demand for large tracks of land for hydropower infrastructure development has led to conflict among communities a many people are asked to relocate to create room for development.

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Due to the large-scale engineering work required to construct hydro power stations, its impact on the environment cannot be overlooked. However, it is also favoured because it comes with supply of water that benefits communities and households.

Hydro power is clean. The energy stored can be used for both base load and the peak time electricity generation. As the leading source of renewable power, it supplies % of the total renewable energy produced.  At the end of 2016, there was 1064 GW install capacity with prospects of growth mostly in China, Africa and Latin America with huge unutilized potential for future development, IRENA (2018). 

There is great synergy between hydro and other power generation technologies thus its role in power generation in the future is expected to grow. This is in addition to the water management benefits that come with it such as flood control, drought mitigation and water for irrigation. 

Strengths of Hydroelectricity

  1. It is a clean source of electricity as it is powered by water thus does not pollute the environment.
  2. It relies on water cycle thus is considered a renewable resource.
  3. It provides other benefits such as water for domestic use, fishing and recreation.
  4. It helps to mitigate on flooding.

Weaknesses of hydroelectricity

  1. It can impact water quality and flow as water is kept in reservoirs.
  2. It requires high initial capital outlay to build the facilities.
  3. It leads to dislocation of populations to create land for construction.

B-    Wind Power

History of Wind Power

            Wind power was used as early as 5000 BC along River Nile and the Persian where it was used to pump water for grinding grain, NEED (2018). Wind power technology was launched in 1,000 AD and it spread to Europe. The first wind mill for electricity generation was launched in Scotland in 1887 by Professor James Blyth of Anderson’s College, Glasgow. In the same year, Professor Charles F. Brush built the first 12kW wind turbine that charged 408 batteries for his home use. This turbine ran for 2 years.

The largest wind mill was launched in 1941 during the peak of World War II that produced 1.25 MW of power. This opened doors for other countries to explore wind power generation, leading to constriction of the first commercial wind farm in California in 1980 producing 25.5 GW, NEED (2018). The global wind power installed by 2018 totalled to 591,549 MW, amounting to around 7of global power generation capacity. Denmark is the global leader in wind electricity generation, with 42% of its total electricity supply coming from the natural wind compared to Germany at 13% among other countries.

How Electricity is generated from Wind

Wind is generated from solar energy. The uneven heating of the earth surface and rotation of the earth causes winds. The flow of wind when harvested by the modern wind turbines are used to generate electricity.

Wind power is generated by converting wind into electricity through the use of wind turbines. The wind turbine is designed with three propellers known as rotors. The rotor is attached to a tall tower, about 20 meters high to capture strong winds. The wind turbines capture the wind that makes the rotor to spin. The spin drives a generator that produces electricity. The image below shows an outlay of a wind power generation plant:


Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around Wind Power

The natural wind is also another non-conventional source of electricity. Areas experiencing strong winds have huge potential for electricity generation, especially high-altitude areas. Wind power generation results to zero pollution as there is no burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Around 90% of wind power electricity are generated onshore.

At the global scale, there are different policy plans that have been initiated to grow the wind electricity capacity to 977 GW by 2030. 905GW of the aggregate projected capacity is expected to be produced onshore while the remaining 72GW are expected to be produced offshore, IRENA (2018).

Despite of the developments, there are some limitations that are hindering the successful exploitation and use of solar electricity. The installation, operation and taxation related costs are high while the returns realized are dependent on the available wind resources and the quantity of electricity produced. The feasibility of a wind electricity generation project is

Costs include both installation and operation expenditures, where revenue is dependent on wind resources, a turbine’s performance and the quantity of energy produced. For a wind plant, this value is defined by the purchase power rate or a feed-in tariff. This value is calculated based on the price paid to the utility plus the transmission cost to their house, where the price of wind energy depends on how much energy is demanded by residents. Therefore, the feasibility and minimum required speed for a wind turbine to be economically viable is related to how much wind energy is available.

The emerging trend within the wind power generation sub-industry shows that major companies are consolidating their efforts as the global market is shifting to Asia.

Strengths of Wind Power

  1. It produces clean energy with zero carbon emission.
  2. Wind power is a renewable source.
  3. One turbine can be enough to generate enough power for a household. 
  4. It has a small footprint as the turbines consume small space.
  5. It can be used in remote locations.

Weaknesses of Wind Power

  1. Generation can be affected by fluctuation of wind.
  2. The cost of installation is high.
  3. Wind mills pose a threat to birds.
  4. The turbines create visual and sound pollution.

C-    Solar Energy

Solar energy is harvested by converting solar directly into electric energy. It is an important source of all the non-conventional sources; however, its use is still low despite being available in abundance. The current global capacity of solar powered electricity exceeded 500 GW by the end of 2018, accounting for only 2.8% of the global electricity demand, IEA (2018).

Investment in solar energy has been significant in areas with less solar resources like Europe than in areas with high solar resources such as in Africa and Asia. Growth in solar electricity is affected by the existing electricity infrastructure, particularly in countries with young markets.

The History of Solar Energy

The history of solar energy can be traced to 1873 when the first photovoltaic system was built by Edmond Becquerel’s, NEED (2018). The diagram below shows the stages and milestones of solar energy.


The diagram demonstrates that scientists played an important role in undertaking research and development that eventually led to the high level of efficiency and development of highly efficient photovoltaic cells.

The work of these scientists opened the door for further development and experimentation, eventually bringing us to where we are today in the level of efficiency offered by modern photovoltaic cells.

How Electricity is generated from solar energy

The first step is to install the solar panels that collect sunlight. Every solar panel has photovoltaic cells (PV) that are what the panels use to collect sunlight and transform it into energy. The solar panel converts the DC electricity they receive into power that can be used. This step is followed by an inverter that converts the DC electricity to AC. The solar panels then push the AC energy into the net meter that determines the amount of energy generated and push into the grid. The process is demonstrated in the diagram below:


Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around SOLAR Energy

The cost of solar power has been on the decline while there has been emergence of new markets in the developing countries. Most governments have been giving incentives and formulating policies. There has also been an oversupply of installation components, which coupled with technological advancements has led to reduction in the cost of solar electricity production.

There has been aggressive Research and Development in solar electricity penetration that has yielded to innovations such as Perovskite3 cells which is about to be launched commercially.  Power conversion efficiency of PV cells has also improved, IRENA (2018). Concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology will also lead to more efficiency. Regulators are also scaling up efforts to protect the environment from solar PV damage. Controlling the entire lifecycle of solar electricity infrastructure, including disposal and recycling should be factored in to ensure that the infrastructure reaches the end of their lifespan and avoid e-waste disposal into the environment.

Several innovations have been witnessed in the past. There has been integration of solar panels in roofing of homes and industrial parks, in addition to development of floating solar farms in oceans and lakes.


Strengths and Weaknesses of Solar Power

Strengths of Solar Energy

Weaknesses of Solar Energy

  1. It is a renewable energy resource
  1. High cost of installation
  1. It reduces electricity bills
  1. Solar is weather dependent
  1. It can be applied diversely
  1. Energy storage is expensive
  1. The cost of maintaining the

infrastructure is low

  1. Solar panels and batteries consume

more space

D-    Geothermal Energy

Geothermal is a form of thermal energy that is generated and stored in the earth. It is considered as one of the renewable and clean forms of energy whose generation and consumption is gathering pace globally.


History of Geothermal Electricity

There was primitive of geothermal energy by the Roans in the 1st century. A breakthrough happened in 1904 when the world’s first ever thermal generator was tested in Italy that produced enough power to light bulbs, IRENA (2018). John D. Grant in 1922 launched the world’s second geothermal plant that produced 250 kW of electricity used to power street lights and households. In 1958, New Zealand launched the largest geothermal power plant followed by the US in 196s that launched a new 11 MW plant. Over the years, countries such as Mexico, Philippines, Kenya and Iceland have launched various power pants, IRENA (2018).

How geothermal electricity is generated

Geothermal power plants use steam to produce electricity. The steam comes from reservoirs of hot water found a few miles or more below the earth’s surface. The steam rotates a turbine that activates a generator, which produces electricity. There are three types of geothermal power plants: dry steam, flash steam, and binary cycle.

The diagram below shows a typical geothermal power plant:


Emerging Economic, Environmental and Technological Issues around Geothermal Electricity

Geothermal power contributes a marginal proportion of the globe’s primary energy consumption. Electricity generation, geothermal produces less than 1% of the world’s output, IRENA (2018). There were 315 MW of new geothermal power capacity installed in 2015. This raised the total capacity to 13.2 GW. Turkey generated half of the new global capacity additions, followed by the US, Mexico, Kenya, Japan, and Germany.

In terms of direct use of geothermal heat, the countries with the most significant utilization, accounting for roughly 70% of direct geothermal in 2015, are China, Turkey, Iceland, Japan, Hungary, the U.S., and New Zealand. The earth’s natural heat reserves are immense. The 

estimated stored energy down to 3 km within the continental crust is roughly 43 x106 EJ, which is considerably higher than the world’s total primary energy consumption, IRENA 92018). Geographically, 72% of installed generation capacity resides along tectonic plate boundaries or hot spot features of the Pacific Rim disproportional percentage of installed generation capacity rate found in island nations at 43%), providing valuable source of power generation a full spectrum of conditions.

The greenhouse gasses trapped within the rocks released through geothermal wells are low in energy units in comparison to fossil sources. The cost of electricity generated from geothermal sources involves low running costs, considered to the fossil-based sources. This has led to an increase in exploitation of geothermal electricity.

The contribution of geothermal energy accounting for only less than 1% of the current aggregate global output which is 13.2 GW by 2015, IRENA (2018).

The cost of producing geothermal electricity is high relative to other sources. The high cost of production is consumed in installation and longer period consumed in development of infrastructure in comparison to other non-conventional sources like solar and wind thus development of geothermal electricity in most countries is reliant on government initiatives to compete against natural gas and other renewable sources.

The legal and regulatory environments also play major role in the development on geothermal electricity generation, particularly laws torching on conservation. The pace of development is expected to be rapid because of the concerns about climate change and the increasing efforts to eliminate carbon emission in the energy sector.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Geothermal Energy



It is environmentally friendly

It can cause earthquakes

The cost of maintenance is low

It requires large land

It is highly efficient

It can only be used in particular places

It is highly sustainable

The cost of installation is high

Reduces noise pollution

               It is renewable source

Global Consumption of Conventional and Non-Conventional Sources of Energy

Despite of global energy electricity consumption tilting in favour of non-conventional energy sources, the table below shows that conventional sources will still be favoured moving into the future.


 Since the beginning of the twenty first century, there has been an increase in human population and industrial activity leading to increase in demand for energy resources. This has led to over-exploitation of the most commonly used energy sources such as fossil and coal, raising concern that these resources may soon be depleted. Renewable energy was considered as the most practical solution to the looming energy crisis. In this regard, a lot of effort and resources have been channeled towards investing in renewable energy in all parts of the world. According IEA (2018), global share of renewable in meeting global energy demand will grow by one-fifth in the next five years to 12.4% by 2023.This reflects significant achievement toward developing this type of energy.

 However, despite the numerous efforts to come up with practical technologies on renewable energy, the process of getting people and institutions to switch from the consumption of non-renewable energy sources to renewable energy has been slow and still faces major obstacles especially in developing nations. This paper focuses on identifying and explaining why many nations are stuck to the consumption of non-renewable energy resources and the challenges facing adoption of renewable energy. Some of barriers have been attributed to: overreliance on fossil-based fuels, weak regulations, technology, marketing, financial, ecological and socio-cultural barriers, IRENA (2017).

Having recognized the importance of renewable energy, all the parties concerned with the promotion of renewable energy such as: government institutions, research institutions, business institutions and other policy makers should work together towards sealing the gaps affecting renewable energy development, Höhne et al. (2016).  More resources should be invested in research and developing infrastructure for renewable energy. Strong regulations should be put in place and enforced to ensure that all the gains made are not eroded and the objectives set by each country are achieved.

Transition from Conventional to Non-conventional Electricity Generation

There is significant transition in the sector from conventional to non-conventional sources informed by the pursuit of clean energy. However, the rate of rate of transition to non-conventional sources is much slower to create significant change that can lead to reduced emission targets. The challenges affecting the transition include:

  1. The public have not fully embraced the non-conventional sources. Even where there are significant natural resources such as abundant sunlight and strong winds that can generate enough power, the consumers still lean towards the conventional sources which are supplied by utility companies.
  2. There is instability in the prices of commodity and power. This leads to uncertainty and high risks for investors because of the high initial investment required and long led time before the projects can break-even.
  3. There is lack of diversification and transition models nationally and internationally thus making it difficult for companies relying on conventional sources to transition.
  4. While incentives offered by the governments and international development partners have created exponential gains in exploitation of non-conventional energy in some countries, such incentives have been on the decline hence the companies are becoming unviable and unsustainable. For example, some investments may slip from profitability to loss making if the government withdraws tax holidays and infrastructural supports initiated to promote production and consumption of clean energy.
  5. The rare earth resources that are used in renewable energies may lead to dependencies along the value chain thus may lead to barriers in the future growth prospects.
  6. Nowadays, there is slow change. However, moving forward, technology may change a lot quickly due to increased investment in Research and Development. The regulators are not adequately prepared to deal with the changes thus it may become a barrier.
  7. The liberalized markets may be overstretched to their limits as the low cost of generation can be perceived to offer the highest value in the short term.


The period of transition has been characterised by some emerging issues. There have been concerted efforts by countries, through initiatives such as COP21 agreement; increase in demand for electricity in countries like China and India; increase in demand for clean energy and increase in the demand for oil and gas. It is worth noting that whereas there has been an increase in the demand for renewable energy, there has also been an increase in the demand for oil and gas.

While the conventional sources were deemed expensive as their prices increased over the years, there have been decline in the price of oil and gas resources. New technologies have also played a role in reducing carbon emission from fossil sources exploitation. In addition to this, there has been an increase in community ownership of sources and cooperation within the sector to create synergies.


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