February 13, 2011

Toward a Sustainable Global Energy Supply Infrastructure: Net Energy Balance and Density Considerations

by Ioannis N. Kessides and David C. Wade

- This paper complements previous work on the economics of different energy resources by examining the growth potential of alternative electricity supply infrastructures as constrained by innate physical limits. Coal-fired generation meets the criteria of longevity (abundance of energy source) and scalability (effective capability to expand to the multi-terawatt level) which are critical for a sustainable energy supply chain, but it carries a very heavy carbon footprint. Renewables and nuclear power meet both the longevity and climate friendliness criteria. However, they vary in terms of their ability to deliver net energy at a scale needed for meeting a huge global energy demand.

Kessides, I.N. and D.C. Wade (2011). "Toward a Sustainable Global Energy Supply Infrastructure: Net Energy Balance and Density Considerations." World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. WPS 5539, Jan 2011.